Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Hand That Turned The Card Over

Just to be ornery, here are some thoughts on the major release from this past weekend that wsn't SPIDER-MAN 3.

LUCKY YOU -- After films like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, WONDER BOYS and IN HER SHOES, I’ll go see any Curtis Hanson film, no questions asked. LUCKY YOU has been stumbling around the release schedule for at least a year and now Warner’s has offered it as the sacrificial lamb to go up against Spidey. This obviously wasn't a good sign, but there was always the hope that it would simply turn out to be the sort of worthwhile character study that studios don't seem to know how to handle anymore.

Hopes dashed. LUCKY YOU definitely displays the signs of quality from Hanson. It's very well shot in 'Scope by Peter Deming, it comes up with interesting uses of locations throughout Las Vegas and even the bit players come off as fully-formed characters, not just bit players. But sadly, the whole thing comes off as kinda flat and inert.

Eric Bana is the lead, Huck Cheever, a poker player so well-known by everyone on town that even Madeleine Peyroux waves at him from the stage. We're never given a good enough reason to like him or dislike him or even have any opinion about him whatsoever. Drew Barrymore is the new-in-town lounge singer who falls for him for no particular reason other than that she seems to think that she's a character in a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, so it's something she has to do. Robert Duvall is Huck's estranged father...he's Duvall, so we love him, but there's nothing here for him to really play. The lack of zing among the leads becomes frustrating, especially since the occasional signs of life emerge. Robert Downey Jr. turns up in a cameo that is never really explained and has nothing to do with anything, but still makes us wish the movie were about him. Jean Smart has very little to do but sit at the poker tables, but still manages to give every line and moment she has a certain zing. Interesting faces, both familar and unfamilar, turn up throughout and consistently make us feel like the movie is about the wrong people.

The film is set in 2003 to, so I'm told, set it during a time when old-school poker transitioned to hipster-poker. There's a lot of poker. A lot. Imagine this: a character sits down at a poker table, begins to play, then we fade to a point later in the game. This happens about ten times in the first half-hour, to the point where I wanted to shout, "Stop That!" I know nothing about poker, so I can't really judge the film based on that (the one poker expert I know was off watching SPIDER MAN with everyone else this weekend), but this is something I do know: there's something great in seeing a movie about something I'm not familiar with and what that movie does convinces me in its two hours that there's nothing more interesting on the planet than that particular subject. There's none of that feeling in LUCKY YOU.

It feels worse to say this about a Curtis Hanson film considering how passionate I've been about a few of his other films. He can do better. He has done better. Here's looking forward to the next one.


Emily Blake said...

As many horrible reviews as have been written about this film it really makes you wonder why so many talented actors got involved in the first place.

It must be the paycheck.

Matt said...

Uh, no Emily. It probably has to do with Eric Roth writing the script and Curtis Hanson directing.
Not every project turns out the way you expect it to.
This hardly seems like a big Hollywood sell out type of film.

Witz said...

What the hell kind of name is Huck Cheever? That's just a Spoonerism waiting to happen...