TMN Movie Review: "Lucky Them"

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Rating: R
Length: 97 minutes
Release Date: April 21, 2014
Directed by: Megan Griffiths
Genre: Drama

Toni Collette is one of those acting talents movie fans recognize from a wide range of roles in numerous projects. However, despite obvious talent, she rarely gets a showcase of her own. Luckily for Collette fans, "Lucky Them" places Collette front and center, with plenty to do and a complex character. The film's story is also interesting yet relatively subtle when compared with many contemporary dramas, even indie dramas. Set in Seattle and drawing from the city's past and present music scene, Collette portrays a journalist assigned a rather personal story. "Lucky Them" is unique in story and tone, and it's refreshing to see something so original with a cast full of big names in this day and age.

Megan Griffiths spent the past decade-plus building a solid reputation in the independent film world. The director first gained notice with the acclaimed short "First Aid for Choking" in 2003. 2012's "Eden" came with an unflinching intensity, and "Lucky Them" delves headfirst into the culture of Griffiths' home turf of Seattle. In pop culture, Seattle is inexorably associated with several well-loved romantic comedies as well as one particular music scene. While "Lucky Them" is certainly a rom-com of sorts, its plot draws from Seattle's recent musical history.

The grunge of explosion of the early 1990s is becoming an increasingly distant memory in pop culture. However, for many, the feelings of that era are still fresh. In the Pacific Northwest, the influence of not just grunge, but also the vitality of the past and present Seattle music scene still reverberates strongly. "Lucky Them" lives in this world as music writer Ellie Klug, played by Collette, is yet to recover from a past relationship with her ostensibly deceased rock star boyfriend, Matthew Smith.

Smith was a massive figure not only in Klug's life but in music in general, an icon whose influential career was cut tragically short. While Ellie gets to meet innumerable musicians in her line of work, many of them very attractive, she's only interested in the most superficial of relationships since she feels her capacity for emotional commitment is long gone.

As the story begins, Klug is at a low point in her career and personal life. A number of years after the death of her paramour, she's still living in the wake of the tragedy and its emotional fallout, turning in less than stellar work and working her way through a string of meaningless, short-term flings. Ellie's floundering career finally catches up with her as her boss, portrayed by Oliver Platt, gives her an assignment to investigate the mysterious death of her lover, who is rumored to still be alive somewhere.

This meaningful assignment is not only the only chance that Ellie has to save her job, but it could potentially bring her closure and allow her to finally move on. Even though the journalist is involved with a relationship with cluelessly smitten struggling musician Lucas Stone, played by Ryan Eggold, Ellie strikes out to find the truth about a number of things. Along for the ride is novice filmmaker Charlie, who is actually a wealthy businessman who decided he wants to play documentarian. Charlie is an entertaining character played by the perfectly cast Thomas Haden Church. Church's performance as Charlie is a definite high-point, comically and otherwise. Also showing up in the cast is Johnny Depp as Ellie's lost love.

Toni Collette and the rest of the cast make the most of the material, which is by turns fun, poignant, and more complex than what audiences are used to seeing in either mainstream or independent films. The character of Ellie is no hero, and not all of her qualities are laudable. However, Collette's excellence as well as the strong screenplay by Huck Botko help make the character sympathetic and her story compelling. The plot moves along in ways that are both expected and unexpected. Yet even during times that "Lucky Them" comes close to feeling predictable or contrived, the talent of the cast as well as the novel elements of the movie's script and direction keep the proceedings both entertaining and touching.

As a musically focused movie with both comedic and romantic elements, "Lucky Them" invites inevitable comparisons to beloved films like "Singles" and "High Fidelity." While this is a lot to live up to for any picture, "Lucky Them" manages to stake out its own cinematic space. Its unique story and three-dimensional characters as well as a strong cast that's obviously dedicated to the material ensure an entertaining viewing experience.

Tags: Lucky Them