Directed by: Megan Griffiths.
Written by: Huck Botko & Emily Wachtel and Caroline Sherman.
Starring: Toni Collette (Ellie Klug), Thomas Haden Church (Charlie), Ryan Eggold (Lucas Stone), Oliver Platt (Giles), Nina Arianda (Dana), Lynn Shelton (Lisa), Ahna O'Reilly (Charlotte), Amy Seimetz (Sara).
Lucky Them is structured around a search for a missing rock star by his former girlfriend, who in the 10 years since he disappeared has become a functional alcoholic, and while she’s still employed as a music critic, it’s at a magazine that is on its last legs. This is Ellie Klug (Toni Collette) – who is witty, wise, sexy and prone to making the same mistakes over and over again. She’s assigned by her boss (Olivier Platt) to write a piece on her old boyfriend, Matthew Smith, a Kurt Cobain-esque rock star, who 10 years before disappeared – his car was found my some waterfalls, and most assume he threw himself in, and his body just hasn’t been found. But Ellie is convinced he is still alive – and she’s still hurt that her first love left her without a word. So, she sets out to try and find Matthew – and gets stuck with Charlie (Thomas Haden Church) – a rich man, with nothing but time on his hands, who has decided he wants to be a documentary filmmaker. He’ll fund Ellie, if she’ll let him make a doc about the search. She, reluctantly, agrees.
The plot about the missing rock star gives the movies its plot and structure, but the film isn’t really all that interested in the search. It is more interested in the two characters at the films center – two characters that they need a reason to spend time together, so they put them on the road, in a giant motorhome, and have them travel around the Pacific Northwest together looking for the rock star. The film wouldn’t work as well as it does had the two characters not been so interesting – and if the two performances weren’t so engaging.
This is one of Toni Collette’s better performances. Her Ellie is a smart woman – but one who is continually making the same mistakes. As the movie begins she is seen leaving yet another younger man’s bed – one who complains that he’s tired of just having sex with her after gigs. Soon, she meets Lucas (Ryan Eggold) a talented singer-songwriter who wants to be famous, who pursues her relentlessly – so even though she knows it’s probably another mistake, she willingly makes it anyway. All of herself destructive behavior has roots in her relationship with Matthew – who she met when they were both teenagers, and who she has built up in her mind as the love of her life. But as the movie progresses, and Charlie keeps interviewing her, she starts to have a more clear eyed view of what her relationship was really like.
For his part, this is also a fine performance by Church – who has an effortless charm and humor (which hasn’t been used enough in the years since his comeback vehicle, Sideways). But like Ellie, he is also making the same mistakes again and again – and once again, he’s in the process of making it again, dating a much younger woman who says idiotic things like “we’re in a Golden age of materialism”. But still, he keeps looking for love.
To be honest, Lucky Them is a rather obvious movie – it doesn’t do anything all that new or different. The film gives us an ending to the mystery, which is surprisingly poignant and touching, given how little is actually said at the time. We’ve seen movies like this before – and probably done better. Yet however minor the pleasures of Lucky Them are – they are still pleasurable. I enjoyed spending time with Ellie and Charlie – and the supporting characters in the film. The film too often doesn’t give them much of interest to do – but for the most part, they’re interesting enough by themselves.