“Lucky Them” is an indie rock’n roll romance that had a good enough script to attract decent talent, just not good enough to develop any one of its many promising threads. File it under “slight, but worth checking out,” mainly for the performances.
Toni Collette is Ellie Klug, heroine and narrator, ageing Seattle rock journalist. Closing in on 40, she’s never outgrown the habit of falling into bed with the promising young musicians she profiles for Stax Magazine. She’s a veteran of the scene who can spot talent in a street busker (Ryan Eggold). If she could only talk her boss (Oliver Platt) into letting her write about him.
All of this might be forgivable, if she’d stayed relevant. She’s still trapped in the alt-rock era she came up in. And she’s never gotten over the most promising lover-rocker of them all, Matthew Smith, who hopped in his car, drove to a waterfall and…disappeared years and years before.
“There is no WAY he would’ve jumped,” she has insisted all along, especially to her bestie bartender (Nina Arianda, sparkling in the part).
That’s the very story her embattled editor needs her to do, “pick at the scab” of her great, lost love. Find out what happened to him.
“Reclaim your place at this magazine,” Giles (Platt) charges her. So she will.
Stumbling into a onetime flirtation, Charlie( Thomas Haden Church, always funny) could be a boon. He’s a rich dabbler who longs to dabble in documentary filmmaking. He’ll assist in her quest.
An online tip — surreptitious footage of a singer who “might be” their quarry — sends them on their way, a road trip into the heart of post-Grunge Seattle and the ever-overcast Pacific Northwest.
Complicating this is Ellie’s dalliance with that street busker, Lucas (Eggold), who is either smitten or determined to get publicized in print. And Charlie is more than hoping he still has a shot with her as they revisit the scenes of Ellie’s romance with the long-missing Matthew, including where she lost her virginity to the missing singer.
“I was 14,” Charlie counters, helpfully. “She was our 46 year-old Jamaican housekeeper. Had a lot of MOLES.”
While director Megan Griffiths (“Eden,” “The Off Hours”) can be commended for avoiding turning this into something utterly predictable, the story elements and arc here are wearily over familiar. The film is part “Almost Famous,” part “Eddie and the Cruisers,” with elements of the Kurt Cobain, Tim Buckley and Jim Morrison stories wrapped up in the fiction.
But Collette always delivers fair value. Her Ellie is hard-drinking, high-mileage, slimmed down and flirting with Cougar-hood, a woman living in the trap of her world, her work and the love she lost. Platt and Arianda are on the nose.
And Thomas Haden Church makes his dyed-hair 40something bachelor a comical cliche, a bore with more money than luck when it comes to love.
Still, “Lucky Them” is rarely deep, rarely more than anything other than a pleasant enough picture you’d find at your average film festival, Netflix bound and worth downloading when it is.
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and drug use
Cast: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt
Credits: Directed by Megan Griffiths, screenplay by Huck Botko and Emily Wachtel. An IFC release.