Lucky Them commences with the film’s protagonist, Ellie Klug (Toni Collette, Hector and the Search for Happiness), ruing life and love gone by ten years ago, then jumping to getting dumped in the present day by a man who doesn’t actually think they were dating. Next, one of her pet seahorses dies, plus her music magazine editor, Giles (Oliver Platt, Kill the Messenger), asks her to start writing articles that will attract a larger readership – such as a follow-up on the legendary indie rocker that disappeared from her life a decade prior. It’s a standard start, delving into almost down-and-out territory, and foreshadowing a climb back to brighter times. It is also emblematic of the likeable character comedy combined with feminine mid-life crisis that eventuates, journeying over well-worn territory but doing so with confidence and comfort.
Ellie, a music critic, turns investigative reporter to track down her one-time beloved, with the bulk of the film a jaunt through the repercussions of their shared past. Sometimes that voyage is literal, including road trips with wealthy new friend and wannabe documentary filmmaker, Charlie (Thomas Haden Church, John Carter), who tags along recording her efforts. Sometimes the meandering is of the soul-searching variety, as she comes to terms with a life spent in the shadow of someone long absent, and faces her dismal history of romantic misfortunes – including a long list of singer, songwriter and similar paramours, like her latest fling, Lucas (Ryan Eggold, TV’s The Blacklist).
Directed by Megan Griffiths (Eden), based on a screenplay by Huck Botko (The Last Exorcism) and Emily Wachtel from an original idea by Caroline Sherman, Lucky Them feels both personal and relatable. Perhaps that’s because the semi-autobiographical effort is taken from Wachtel’s experiences and alter ego, intertwined with an assemblage of stock-standard mature-age coming-of-age moments. The mix of intimacy and universality is amply assisted by a rock’n’roll framework reminiscent of a gender-swapped High Fidelity, as well as honesty lingering behind the clichés. The scenarios traversed may be routine, as well as littered with convenience, but the perspective has the texture of reality.
Such a balance of content asks much of its cast; however Lucky Them couldn’t be in better hands with its lead. Collette’s is a film-improving performance, breathing life into and finding nuance in a world-weary character the world may otherwise have wearied of in other hands. She sells both the hardened exterior and the vulnerable interior beyond stock-standard bounds, doing so in her meatiest role since television series The United State of Tara. Adding comic relief as well as humility, Haden Church, too, is a warm and welcome presence, offering a reminder of how much his brand of empathetic drollness is needed on screen. A familiar superstar face becoming known for popping up in unbilled bit parts also does just that, and perfectly so, but this is always Collette and Haden Church’s movie, with the chemistry to prove it.
Griffiths helms the feature with low-key fondness and a lived-in atmosphere, the camera caressing the Seattle spaces the story calls home, and lingering lovingly over the more rural places Ellie and Charlie venture to. Courtesy of cinematographer Ben Kutchins (Mozart in the Jungle), the imagery is expectedly sharp and crisp, but the feeling it evokes – in tandem with the wistful soundtrack – is like that of a memory of pathos evolving into poignancy, an apt impression that suits a film like Lucky Them that is all-too familiar, earnestly affable and nicely delicate – as well as quickly fading – all at once.
Lucky Them opened in Australian cinemas on March 5th, 2015.
Directed by: Megan Griffiths.
Starring: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt.