By Pete Barell
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Ellie Klug (Toni Collette) is a music critic who can’t seem to critique and correct her own life. Even though she’s in her forties, she indulges in bad-boy musicians, and seems to live off the instant gratification of her sexual encounters, all of which pale in comparison to her first boyfriend and childhood sweetheart — a legendary singer-songwriter named Matthew Smith, who dropped off the face of the earth and presumed dead years ago.
The critic is called into action since she is quickly becoming irrelevant — her recent articles have very few online comments, says her boss (Oliver Platt). So, there we go. It make a little more sense for her to act like a teenage girl with daddy issues, because it seems she is seeking the attention that has slowly been sapped from her life. She’s given a do-or-be-fired assignment to track down the whereabouts of Smith: the story that will save her career. Commence the search.
A mustachio’d Thomas Haden Church plays the supporting role of eccentric old money ex-boyfriend Charlie, who is someone for Ellie to scoff at since he’s an outsider to her alt-rock, leather jacketed world. Church certainly has proved his indie chops, and is a strong point of “Lucky Them”. He decides to help Ellie chase down a lead about Smith somewhere in yonder country, as long as he can make a documentary about it, since he’s been taking classes in what appears to be a reflection of his own mid-life crisis. Charlie provides a few nuggets of romantic wisdom, but musings like those shouldn’t act as a thematic crutch for a film.
The film turns into a meandering road trip, with odd leaps in time, insta-relationships and a whole lot of Ellie losing focus of what really matters. Any “indie” appeal to the film is squandered by an obviously structured script — very apparent beats, character growth and convenient situations strip any sense of realism, especially when every character seems to be flirting and making fun of each nearly all of the time. Not since “Juno” have I heard such wise-cracking dialogue in a film, that seems like a TV sitcom without a laugh track. The tone may work in straight comedies, but “Lucky Them” confuses itself in the struggle to seek that crucial balance that makes good dramedies work.
“Lucky Them” is a film about past, present and future. Ellie is on a journey to track down a vital part of her past, to save her future, while Charlie films the trek in the present. The dichotomy is weaved by generational gaps — Ellie develops a somewhat irrelevant younger boyfriend named Lucas (Ryan Eggold), while Charlie starts a relationship with the young Charlotte (Ahna O’Reilly). Lucas seems to be in the film just to add conflict — he’s a good guy, and a reminder to Ellie that she could try to settle down. In once scene, she meets a man at a party who psychoanalyzes her, noticing that she calls relationships “gigs”. This temporary attitude swamps the character throughout the film, leading to her eventual and expected growth. Characters need flaws, don’t they?
When we finally reach the big reveal — is Smith really alive? — it is underwhelming, given Ellie’s ADD personality. We are distracted by her distractions, and so become disengaged to the whole point of her mission, other than keeping her job: to grow up and move beyond her past . And when she does, why should we care anymore?
“Lucky Them” was directed by Megan Griffiths, with a script by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel. It has been touring film festival circuit since fall of last year, from Toronto, to Tribeca, to Nashville, and distributed by IFC. The film opens for a public release in New York City on May 30th.