I want Harry Dean Stanton to receive an Oscar nomination for his role in this tiny little film.
Lucky is not only a captivating film, but a noble tribute to Harry Dean Stanton. Mr. Stanton died recently at the age of 91, and no obituary could honor him more than this emotionally meaningful movie.
Here, Mr. Stanton plays Lucky, a 90-year-old man living alone in a small house at an unnamed desert location in the Southwest. He begins each day lighting a cigarette, doing a few yoga exercises and then walking into town to grab coffee at a diner where he works on a crossword puzzle. Though everyone knows him, he is a distant, atheistic recluse who is trying to make sense out of a life nearing its end.
While trying not to dwell on his past, he still considers the saddest moment in his life the day he accidently shot a mockingbird with a bb gun that he was only trying to scare away. As you listen to him tell that small, tragic story, you wish there was a way you could just enter the film to provide him some comfort.
Lucky also pays a daily visit to a local bar to have a couple Bloody Marys. In the process he engages in some wonderful interplay with old friends who are all wrestling with the meaning of life. One is Howard, played by Actor/Director David Lynch, who is in agony after his pet tortoise named President Roosevelt escaped from his yard. In addition, Beth Grant gives a tremendous performance as the owner of this small tavern, glorying in the fact that she has given Fred (Tom Skerritt), another patron, salvation from a lost life by simply choosing him to be her lover.
The film is filled with a collection of these moments where you see Lucky walking the streets and countryside alone in his tattered straw cowboy hat and old boots. Smoking several packs of cigarettes a day, he leaves his doctor (Ed Begley, Jr.) astounded that he didn’t die decades earlier.
Lucky firmly believes that life ends not in the hands of God, but with all of us drifting into some nameless void. However, he discovers the fundamental importance of life while attending a birthday party for a local Hispanic boy with the wonderful name Juan Wayne. In what may possibly be the most endearing moment in any film released this year, you see Lucky join three Hispanic musicians in singing a loving song completely in Spanish.
At its conclusion, you see him respond to applause by rediscovering the most powerful gesture a human being possesses, a smile. Everyone on screen and off had a smile on their face at that moment, and I was left wiping away tears of joy from my cheeks.
Ironically, given that Mr. Stanton died shortly before the release of this movie, I couldn‘t help but reflect on my favorite David Lynch movie, The Straight Story (1999). That was an enchanting film about a 70-year-old widower, played in an Oscar nominated performance by Richard Farnsworth, who wanted to visit a dying brother to settle old scores. Given that Mr. Farnsworth lived in Iowa and his brother lived in Wisconsin, he was forced to ride a lawnmower the entire distance given that he did not have a driver’s license.
Mr. Stanton played the dying brother in that movie, and Mr. Farnsworth passed away before the Oscar awards were passed out months later. No actor could die in a more memorable fashion than these two gentlemen.