VIFF Review: ‘Lucky’ is the perfect swan song for Harry Dean Stanton

A man lives alone in a small house in town so small you’d probably miss it if you blinked driving down the highway. He’s never been married, he has no kids. He starts each day with a cigarette, a vigorous yoga routine in his underwear, and the walk into town to do his morning crossword and see his friends.

I’m sure this wasn’t exactly Harry Dean Stanton’s real life but Lucky is clearly a movie about Harry Dean Stanton.

Lucky spends his days sticking to the same routine until one morning he inexplicably falls. His doctor (Ed Begley Jr) has a grim prognosis: Lucky is getting old. The news comes as a bit of a shock as I am sure it would to most of us. Most of us think of our mortality as an external force. Maybe you’ll get hit by a bus, or get cancer. No one want to just… stop.

Stanton, a man who called himself an actor who didn’t act, gives the performance of a lifetime. Maybe that’s because for the first time he really didn’t have to act but the effect is just the same. Lucky was written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja for Stanton and features many stories and philosophies from the man himself. That is to say that while Stanton isn’t Lucky, but Lucky most definitely is Stanton.

How do you deal with the fact that you are going to die? Does it piss you off? Are you frightened by it? Are you resigned to it? Or do you accept it? Stanton walks through this film, literally and figuratively, moving through each of these with a grace that might only be found in actors who have 200 credits to their name.

Ultimately Lucky, both the movie and the character arrive where you think they will, but as with life it’s the journey to get there that make this film worth watching. Harry Dean Stanton gives his last performance surrounded by a cast of journeymen actors, all of whom get a great monologue, each of which feeds into a philosophy about life or death that was Stanton’s own.

In a long and storied career of supporting roles –Stanton was only the lead in one other film– this final performance is a thing of beauty. A last chance to look in the camera and smile before continuing down the road.

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