Seattle is known for a lot of things, but nothing is more prevalent than it being the birthplace of a form of music that took over America in the 90’s. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, & Alice in Chains emerged from the music underground and took the world by storm. This unique style of music and its fan-base is obvious if you’ve ever visited Seattle and the culture that Grunge spawned is incredible. The music helped shape Seattle into what it is today and it really did change the city for the better.
In the age of electronic music and pop hits dominating the radio, there exists a rock magazine in the heart of Seattle that’s struggling to keep its readership. Head Journalist Ellie Klug (Toni Collette) is desperate for a story and is also looking for new musicians to feature. Her boss (Oliver Platt) gives a deadline and a story: Find out what happened to Matthew Smith. Smith was an ex-boyfriend of Ellie’s and an influential musician in the rock genre and he magically disappeared, hurting Ellie in the process.
To find Matthew, however, Ellie would need a lot of money that she didn’t have. Fortunately and unfortunately for her, she rekindles a friendship with another ex-boyfriend of hers, Charlie (Thomas Hayden Church), and he provides the funds under one condition: he films everything for a documentary. The two embark on a journey to find Matthew, looking all over for traces and following clues along the way. At the same time, Ellie also tries to balance a relationship with an up-and-coming musician (Ryan Eggold) and her life only grows more complicated as her memories all come flooding back.
Lucky Them is a curious little film that fits in well with its Seattle subject. Being from Seattle myself, I may be biased in regards to the filming locations and music styles shown in the film, but stepping away from that it’s clear that people regard Seattle greatly in terms of its music and any fan of grunge/rock can appreciate this film to some degree. It works for a while, but not every character works well enough to keep this film at the level it clearly wants to stay at. However, there were more than a few outstanding scenes that have stuck with me weeks after.
This is Toni Collette’s film from start to finish and she owns every scene that she’s in. She’s got a magnetic presence in this film, as your eyes will be drawn to her and will study every emotion she elicits, be it with her eyes, body, or words. This has got to be the best work she’s done in years and the passion she puts behind her performance speaks words about her as an actress. She’s chews up her dialogue from scene-to-scene and her character is a complex one that she plays with ease. The best thing about Collete’s performance is that it comes off as the perfect balance of professional and natural. She’s resilient when she needs to be, but it isn’t afraid to let her emotions take control and guide her where she needs to go.
Growing up in an area and cultured that was shaped by Grunge and Rock & Roll, it was hard not to like certain aspects of this film. I loved the little rock shops and the idea of people staying true to their roots, even with all the crap that plays on the radio. These characters and the people of Seattle care about their music and the mini-interviews with fans of this fake Rock idol were reminiscent of those of early Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden fans. The people backed these small groups from the beginning and their influence over time was astounding and you see a lot of that in this film. Plus, it’s always fun to watch new singers and bands looking to share their passions with others and I think that Director Megan Griffiths captures that extremely well.
With as good as the part was, no character was going to hold a candle to Ellie. Her dialogue was stellar and Collette owned the performance. Unfortunately, it seemed like all the effort went into Ellie, as Thomas Hayden Church’s character is one of the most obnoxious I’ve seen all year. He’s the wealthy intellectual with zero social skills and he also serves as our unnecessary comic relief. I enjoy Church, but his character felt so out-of-place and really slowed the film down for me. Anytime I would get engaged, he would take me out of the film with his stupid remarks. He’s got a poorly written part that just has no business being in the film. There are other ways for Ellie to get a few grand without having to have one of the most annoying sidekicks ever.
With the inclusion of Hayden Church’s character, we also got an irrelevant subplot that takes us nowhere. It only serves as a means to create conflict among characters and add filler-time for the story. There’s also Ryan Eggold, who’s always courting Collette and he’s barely given the time of day when it comes to character exploration. The guy can sing and act well, but he’s shoved to the wayside for more humor on Chruch’s end. Eggold and Collette have great chemistry and I would have loved to see the two of them explore the rock genre and look for Smith, rather than complicating things with Eggold getting a record deal. I get why he does and it all makes sense on some level, but the importance of the characters just seems a bit off.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy Lucky Them for the most part and there’s certainly enough here to please audiences. Toni Collette will blow you away, the rock/grunge music will please your ears, and the last few minutes of this film will touch your heart in a profound way. I mean, my jaw was on the floor towards the end of this film and I still can’t get over how extraordinary Collette is. If you’re a Seattle native or are just fond of the culture, I’d recommend this to you as well because you’ll see a lot of what you love. All in all, this is a good film with an outstanding performance and one of they year’s best scenes!
Lucky Them Trailer