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NBFF Review: Lucky

The 12th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) has begun, and with that I have now been to my first screening.  Friday, April 29, 2011, saw the west coast premiere of the film Lucky, starring Colin Hanks, Ari Graynor, Ann-Margaret, and Jeffrey Tambor.  Lucky is a comedy that relies on two very quirky performances from its leads, Hanks and Graynor.  The story involves a shy man (with a secret) who wins the lottery and the results it has once a girl he’s had a crush on factors more heavily into his life.  While I certainly found there to be humorous things about this film and its concept, I had a lot of issues with the tone and handling of these characters.  I did not want to end up with negative feelings about this film for my first screening review, but unfortunately that has to be the case here.

In the film, Colin Hanks plays Ben, a mild mannered office employee, who has had a crush on his co-worker and longtime friend, Lucy (Ari Graynor), for a very long time.  Lucy works the reception desk at an accounting firm and is currently having an affair with her boss.  In a period of both unfortunate and important news, the day that Lucy is dumped, Ben arrives home to find that he has won the lottery, a $36 million payday.  Aware of this news, while thinking of her own misfortune, Lucy is at first miserable to learn all of this.  Meanwhile, Ben, while being goaded to embrace his fantastic luck by his mother, Pauline (Ann-Margaret), seems to be very uneasy about the whole situation.  I am going to avoid spoiling why it is that Ben is not happier for himself, but suffice it say there is a very good reason, which is revealed early on.

After sulking, Lucy decides to play along with the crush that Ben has had on her, essentially tumbling herself into a relationship and eventual marriage with Ben, despite Lucy only seeming to want to be involved for the sake of the fortune Ben has.  Still, being a gold digger may be a much lighter issue than the one that Lucy eventually finds out for herself, as Ben proves to be a person with a hidden side completely different than his usual nervous self.

Despite choosing not to reveal one of the surprises about this film, which you could almost guess if you wanted to, I think the issues I have with it can still be properly expressed.  Mainly, I did not like Lucy.  This is nothing against Ari Graynor’s performance, especially early on and towards the end, but in the middle, Lucy becomes a dislikable character, because everything she does is motivated by her desire for money.  Despite how quirky the character is and how affable she wants her personality to seem, that aspect took me out of the film.  It would be more acceptable for me, if Ben was an opposite type of character in terms of what we are supposed to like about him, but because we are clued in to who he really is, you have two different characters that you are not really supposed to like, but only one of them seems to be more engaging.  Lucy’s appeal to me is unfortunate, because I am clearly supposed to side with her for the majority of the film, and as much as Graynor’s bubbly performance should have worked to handle this aspect, I just could not come to terms with how her character functions in this story.

Colin Hanks is decent in this film.  Given the role that he is playing here, one would assume that he is playing to his strengths, given the similar awkward nature of other characters he has played before, but once we find out more about him, there is a whole new aspect that should challenge him.  I can certainly understand why he would take this role, as it does have that challenging aspect that should be testing his skills as an actor; however, the movie has adopted such a breezy and light sort of tone that the darker element to the Ben character does not come across as well as it should.

The tone is really where I think this movie fumbles the most.  I could easily see this movie working better if the movie had a darker undercurrent lurking throughout.  Of course, I have also seen that type of movie many times before, which I think is why Lucky tries to go for something different.  Unfortunately, trying to be different in that way did not work out in the long run, for me anyway.  For example, there is a detective character played by Jeffrey Tambor.  Sadly, as much as I love watching Tambor, the film essentially wastes having him, by not using his strengths as an actor.  Instead, he simply plays a very straight role, which had me wondering what the purpose of his casting was, besides a familiar face to serve the film in marketing appeal.  In a film like this, which already plays light with the tone, it can’t even settle on keeping a comedic actor comedic.

There are some strengths to this film.  I found Ann-Margaret’s role to be quite good.  Her performance may at first seem a little over-the-top, but it develops into something better later on.  There are also a number of laughs, regardless of some of my issues.  This is a comedy, and while I don’t think the film ended up achieving what it wanted, I at least enjoyed a good number of scenes in it.  And I even enjoyed the alternative-style soundtrack playing throughout the film.

As much as I wish the high level of quirky energy that this film had could have paid off in the end, I don’t think the film met its potential.  It is not for lack of trying, as Graynor is the character who had the most to offer, but unfortunately teetered the wrong way for me in the long run.  I do also think the story was interesting, just mishandled in its way of telling it.  Lucky has small doses of entertainment value, but I think it has too many shares of problems that do not quite measure up to it being a success.

Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website, and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week for more of my coverage of it.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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