Having recently seen Neil Burger’s latest film (Limitless) and having thoroughly enjoyed his first film, The Illusionist, I thought I’d check out what else he has done (namely The Lucky Ones, a film he made in 2008, between the other two). That would be a lie. The truth is that I randomly picked a recent DVD that I had not yet seen off my shelf and it just happened to be written and directed by Neil Burger.
Three American soldiers, fresh from Iraq, find themselves on a road trip across the States. They are all suffering from injuries and the trauma created not just by being in Iraq but by being away from their homes for such a long period of time. Each of them is going to face life-changing trials on this unplanned trip across the country (did I mention they have never met before). Tim Robbins plays Fred Cheaver, a man who has served his time and is coming home to a wife he hasn’t seen for two years. But his wife has “moved on” and wants a divorce and his son needs $20,000 immediately to get into Stanford. Rachel McAdams (who was the standout here, showing what she is capable of if given the right role) plays Colee, a young woman with an innocent goodhearted personality whose lover was recently killed in Iraq. She’s on a mission to return her lover’s guitar to his parents, but she will also not be impressed by what she finds when she gets there. And Michael Pena plays T.K., a man who just got some shrapnel in his private parts and can’t perform sexually. He’s worried about how his girlfriend will react to this injury and about going back to Iraq.
Does this sound like a comedy drama to you? Of course not. And not to me either, especially as I randomly picked The Lucky Ones from my ‘drama’ section. But ‘fate’ is playing tricks on me and it was indeed yet another comedy drama, despite the serious situations just described.
As a comedy drama, it actually worked pretty well (i.e. the comedy did not offend me and it all felt relatively genuine). What stood out in The Lucky Ones was the quality of the acting of the three leads and the natural way they reacted to each other and bonded with each other (which in the end is what makes them the 'the lucky ones'). The dialogue and relationships felt completely believable despite some of the typical absurdities of road movies. In one way or another, I connected to all three of these soldiers facing the stress of returning home (however briefly) and that’s far from a given in a comedy road movie. On the other hand, The Lucky Ones remained a lightweight throughout and just didn’t have enough depth to get more than a solid ***. My mug is up, but I’m still waiting for something special.
So, starting tomorrow, I’m going to try to search out those lesser-known gems from the past decade which I have not yet seen and which you may be able to find.