SXSW Film Review: Harry Dean Stanton Gets ‘Lucky’


Okay, to say Harry Dean Stanton “gets” Lucky, his new film directed by veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch, doesn’t quite tell the whole picture. Lucky is, in essence, the spirit of Harry Dean Stanton, assembled from bits of stories and put into a script by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja. From here Stanton, cast as the title character, plays a stylized version of himself. An average, aging guy who lives in a nondescript desert town and starts to contemplate the nature of mortality at the age of 90. 

The film itself is a rich, colorful palate that creates a lavish sense of space across its canvas. Equally colorful are the many supporting characters, featuring cameos by everyone from David Lynch and Tom Skerritt to Ron Livingston and Beth Grant.

Individually, they create the framework of a scene, one where Lucky engages in some kind of conversation (friendly or otherwise), and never seems to offer any real sense of closure. Such is the nature of Lucky’s life, a man with no faith to fall back on, no afterlife to believe in, who finds himself having to come to terms with his numbered days.

Though it may be a role written for Stanton, incorporating much of his real-life routine into the character, the actor shows the stamina to single-handedly carry a film, even at age 90. While he’s playing himself, (or a version of it, anyway) his charisma keeps you fully engaged through the film’s ponderous pacing.

It’s a 70s-style character study adorned with John Ford-style scenery but told with a Jim Jarmusch-style tempo. Lucky, the film, doesn’t get give you any answers, though Lucky, the character, doesn’t necessarily seem like he wants any. Instead, he’s content to wander in and out of these conversational vignettes over and over again, forging repetition into a comfortable, well-worn routine. A man searching for an answer he knows he’ll never find, but never seems to be too bothered by that fact.

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