Lucky You

Lucky You

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            This film was scheduled to be released in September 2006. Then it was delayed until Mach 2007. Then delayed again until May 2007. This is never a good sign.

            “Lucky You” is a slick and shiny and beautifully shot film, and that’s really a shame. It is a story about a gambling addict who is too handsome, finding a woman who is too understanding, reconciling with his estranged father which is too convenient, and learning to live his live more stably which is too unlikely.


            “Lucky You” takes place in Las Vegas inside big casinos and gambling dens where $10,000 is referred to as a “dime.” There are treacherous bookies, wacky gamblers (including one fellow who gets breast implants and lives in a restroom for money), and jaded pros who know how to win, and what kind of living it is.


            Eric Bana is the too-handsome actor cast in the role of the unfortunately-named Huck Cheever. Huck is a gambling addict under the delusion that he is a professional poker player. He is, rather, a man who connives, “borrows” and outright robs anyone who can continue to feed his need to play poker. His father is L.C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), and the two of them spend the movie resenting each other, and winning a coveted ring/obvious Oedipal symbol back and forth from one another (the ring belonged to a deceased mom/wife). Huck also falls in with his ex-girlfriend’s little sister Billie. The ex is played by Debra Messing, Billie is played by Drew Barrymore. Huck loses a lot of poker, charms Billie, drags her to a poker match as a “date,” sleeps with her, robs from her, and goes to play more poker. Billie, in a surprisingly fatuous move, does not kick Huck to the curb immediately, but continues to be charmed by him.


            I won’t bore you with any more details, suffice to say Huck’s entire emotional arc comes to a head when he is pitted against his father in a televised world series tournament, which means redemption, cash, and the love of a woman. Snore


            “Lucky You” got it all wrong. All wrong. The screenplay (by director Curtis Hanson, and veteran Eric Roth, author of “Munich,” “The Insider” and “Forrest Gump”) created one world, a dark world of smoky rooms, naïve lounge singers, and sad sacks who delude themselves and lose other people’s money. The actual lines of dialogue seem to imply that the characters talk like they think they’re in a noir film. Like they think they’re cool. In fact, they are sad and struggling.


            But then the film that Hanson directed is almost the opposite of what, I suspect, the screenplay intended. It is bright, the characters cute, flirty, and “likeable.” Barrymore plays the usual cutesy twentysomething she’s based her career on, and it makes Billie seem insane. Bana is too much of a prettyboy to play an addicted husk like Huck. Huck wears a leather jacket throughout the film, and it looks really good on him. Someone like Huck should not look good in a leather jacket, he should only think he looks good in a leather jacket. Duvall has some pretty horrid dialogue (“You play cards like you should live life, and live life like you should play cards”), but fares the best, giving L.C. a sorely needed tragic edge.


            Had the film been made for half the budget, restricting the slick romantic Hollywood photography, and had a cast of darker-eyed actors, the film would have been a brilliant tragedy about gambling addiction and co-dependence. My girlfriend suggested Clifton Collins, Jr. in the role of Huck. That’s a great idea. Or perhaps Michael Shannon (the creepy guy from “Bug”) who appears as Huck’s opponent several times in the film? And how about someone like… heck anyone other than Drew Barrymore? But no, we must have the big ol’ all-star cast, the big ol’ romantic ending, and have the big ol’ typical Hollywood struggles along the way.

             “Lucky You” is a classic example of what people refer to when they talk about “Hollywoodizing” a film.

Published in: on October 5, 2007 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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