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2017 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Eleven – LUCKY

Posted on Oct 9, 2017 by | 0 comments


It was a beautiful October day for day eleven of the Milwaukee Film Festival. There was a very nice awards brunch during the middle of the day. And one of my most anticipated films of the festival was on the docket, with LUCKY.

LUCKY is Harry Dean Stanton’s final role as a lead. And, it’s a fantastic role which emphasizes all of Harry Dean Stanton’s strength’s as an actor. The title cards, situated around Harry Dean Stanton say “Harry Dean Stanton is Lucky” and dividing between the actor and his role seems like a fools errand in this case. Or at least the role seems crafted for all of Harry Dean Stanton’s strengths. As a final showcase for a great actor Harry Dean Stanton gets to go out with one of his finest performances.

LUCKY is a character study about an old man who doesn’t believe in the afterlife facing his own imminent mortality. And that looming death frightens LUCKY to his core. He still goes about his daily routine, does the crossword, watches his shows, smokes constantly, and has some drinks and banter with his friends at the local bar, but there’s a clear crisis in his inner thoughts. He’s just a bit more cantankerous than usual. And a bit more melancholy. If there’s a panic, it’s only in the corner of his eyes.

It’s, of course, a terrific performance from Harry Dean Stanton who is asked to carry the load. Harry Dean Stanton was never a classic leading man, but he was always extremely watchable with the way you could detect no artifice around his performances. There’s even less here as Harry Dean Stanton has no vanity about his age. Moreover, there’s a full range of charm and stubbornness on display, there’s little doubt why Lucky has friends and little doubt why they are sometimes exasperated by him.

This is John Carroll Lynch’s feature debut and the character actor has crafted a loving tribute to the king of character actors. Visually, John Carroll Lynch doesn’t do a ton more than just focus on Harry Dean Stanton, but that choice completely fits what the entire film is about. And the performances are all very fine, with David Lynch being a comic highlight as Lucky’s friend going through his own crisis with an escaped tortoise.

LUCKY is a really tremendous movie. It played as part of the American Independents program and it embodies what you want to see, distinctly American films about people that big blockbusters won’t deliver. I expect that we’ll be hearing more about LUCKY as awards season rolls around, particularly in regards to the Independent Spirit awards, and that you really should take advantage of any opportunity to see it in the meantime.


LUCKY has played its final show at the 2017 Milwaukee Festival but there are plenty of good films left to screen. The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from September 28 to October 12, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online at the Milwaukee Film Festival website or at box office locations at various venues.

Robert Reineke
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