It’s hard to imagine a better send-off for the late Harry Dean Stanton than this film, in which he portrays an old cuss living in a tiny desert town who must come to terms with his mortality. Rating: 4 stars out of 4.
Harry Dean Stanton, who died Sept. 15 at age 91, was an esteemed character actor who could play cantankerous or melancholy or plain idiosyncratic, all in unforgettable ways. It’s hard to imagine a better send-off for the gaunt-faced performer than “Lucky,” in which he portrays a Stantonesque codger, living in a tiny desert town, who must come to terms with his mortality.
The movie’s nonagenarian hero is named Lucky, but make no mistake about it — he is, in large measure, Stanton himself, and the film borrows from the actor’s life and career as it recounts Lucky’s unvarying daily routine, with glances at some of the bigger questions that confront us all.
Viewers who know Stanton’s extensive body of work — including “Paris, Texas” (one of his rare leading roles), the original “Repo Man,” “Wild at Heart” and “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (and other Westerns) — will have a ball spotting references. What others will make of “Lucky” I can’t even guess, but I hope they will sense that first-time director John Carroll Lynch, himself a character actor of some accomplishment, and some familiar faces that pop up in the movie were motivated to participate by love and respect for the actor.
Movie Review ★★★★
‘Lucky,’ with Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, James Darren. Directed by John Carroll Lynch, from a screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja. 88 minutes. Not rated. SIFF Cinema Uptown.
Lucky’s desert shack, style of dress and laconic affect all scream “cowboy,” and he is indeed a rugged individualist, albeit one whom advanced age has reduced to a fairly simple circuit of activities.
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He’s a crusty old cuss, but he softens a bit when he encounters his best buddy, played by none other than David Lynch (no relation to “Lucky” ’s director).
Lynch’s character is thrown when his ancient pet tortoise wanders off among the cactuses. Lynch is pretty good at this kind of drollery, and he’s not the only actor who registers strongly: Others include Ron Livingston as a lawyer; Ed Begley Jr. as the doctor who examines Lucky after a mysterious fall; and Tom Skerritt as a veteran who swaps World War II stories with Lucky.
This is a film that takes its time, and why not? We are free to enjoy at leisure the movie’s many small delights.
A couple of other odd moments to savor: Lucky, seeking a crossword answer, reads a dictionary definition of “realism” that’s perfectly to the point. And listen as he plays “Red River Valley” on the harmonica. Either one is a great way to remember Harry Dean Stanton.