What can you say about Harry Dean Stanton, who died at 91 on September 15th? That he was one of the best actors in the business? You’ve seen Repo Man – that’s a given. The good news for Stanton enthusiasts, and we are legion, is that he’s going out at the top of his game with a starring role in this melancholy indie. John Carroll Lynch, a character actor (Fargo, Zodiac) in the great Stanton tradition, makes his directing debut with this character study and his affection for his star fills every frame.
But Lucky doesn’t insult Stanton by coddling him or selling him short with sentiment. Neither do screenwriters Drago Sumonja and longtime Stanton friend Logan Sparks. In his first leading role since 1984’s indelible Paris, Texas, the actor plays Lucky, an atheist loner and WWII vet who chain-smokes, watches game shows when he’s not practicing yoga and whose preferred manner of dress in his desert town is underwear. He talks to people, of course. There’s David Lynch (yup, the Twin Peaks creator himself) as a guy who’s lost his pet turtle, Yvonne Huff as a sassy waitress from his local diner, Ron Livingston as an insurance agent who pisses him off, Tom Skerritt as an ex-marine and a knockout James Darren (Moondoggie from those ancient Gidget movies) as a bar buddy. The film gives them all moments to shine.
But this is Stanton’s movie and his interactions with this world in microcosm and its star-crossed inhabitants constitute a master class in acting. No fuss, no showing off – just old Harry Dean kicking his own mortality down the road like a tin can that got in his way. No one who cares about movies and those rare actors who can elevate them into something unforgettable would dream of missing this scrappy, loving tribute to a virtuoso. Lucky may not believe in God. But what kind of fool doesn’t believe in Harry Dean Stanton?