On September 15th, the film industry lost one of its shining stars.
Harry Dean Stanton, best known for his roles in Paris, Texas and Alien, had passed away at the age of 91 said his agent John S. Kelly in a shocking announcement. The news shook everyone who admired the character actor’s impressive repertoire and many talents (he was also a reputable musician and singer). His final starring role in a film, Lucky, is appropriately titled as we truly are lucky to see Stanton in a role as a man who, ironically, questions permanence and the mystery of death.
Stanton plays the role of Lucky, a retired Navy veteran, atheist, and all-around crabby senior citizen. He lives alone in an unspecified pioneer-like desert town, passing his days by sticking to a routine of light exercise, trying his hand at a crossword puzzle at the local diner, and watching game shows. Everyone in the town is on a first name basis with Lucky, whose cranky demeanor doesn’t stop them from initiating conversations on how he should quit his pack-a-day smoking habit, or how his morning is going.
A health scare draws Lucky into an even more introspective state when he is forced to face his impending mortality. He is getting older, his gaunt face and fragile bones showing a life slowing down, but well-lived. His conversations with friends Paulie (James Darren), Elaine (Beth Grant), and Howard (David Lynch) become more philosophical. Lucky talks about the difference between being lonely and being alone. Paulie talks about his special relationship with Elaine. Howard imparts wisdom after the disappearance of his tortoise, President Roosevelt, “Think of the burden a tortoise carries on his back. Yes, [his shell] is for protection, but ultimately its the coffin he’s going to get buried in. And he has to drag it around his entire life.”
Meditative and self-reflective, “Lucky” is a touching posthumous tribute to Stanton.
Recent events seem to certainly have affected John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut; while it may be a bit morbid to admit, the death of Stanton makes the film feel even more special. It is such a poignant piece of work that embodies spiritualism and realism with great empathy. The cast, which includes Ron Livingston as Bobby Lawrence, is phenomenal. They might as well be directly talking to the audience when they give life advice to Lucky– sharing wisdom that offers a sense of security and trust.
The film may take place in a stuffy desert town, but the vibe is anything but suffocating. Actor turned director John Carroll Lynch gives the characters room to breathe with fluid dialogue and subtle movements that compliment the environment. There are things in this universe that are bigger than us, Lucky so calmly recites, and this film is a gentle reminder of this. Meditative and self-reflective, Lucky is a touching posthumous tribute to Stanton. In the film, he says he smiles at the impermanence of life. Wherever he is now, I hope he is still smiling.
‘Lucky’ is not rated. 88 minutes. Opend this Friday at The Landmark and the Laemmle Pasadena.