starring Brea Grant, Hunter C. Smith, Yasmine Al-Bustami, Kristina Klebe
written by Brea Grant
directed by Natasha Kermani
by Walter Chaw When you make the subtext the text, you have text and no subtext. I'm uncomfortable saying that things like Natasha Kermani's Lucky (from a script by star Brea Grant) are not good, because sometimes that's taken as a comment on the text rather than the execution of the text. More often, and I'm not even sure this isn't fair to say, it's taken as evidence that men can only review films made by women as men would see films made by women. That's literally true. When I watch something like Sophia Takal's Black Christmas, the second reboot of Bob Clark's seminal slasher, I'm starkly confronted by the divorce between what I'm watching and my knowledge of what its messages mean to so many. I think it's imperative that women speak out about men and have the means to do so. That said, Black Christmas, the reboot of Rabid, and now Lucky move me only as intellectual exercises and not as calls to action. They're rally speeches, not poetry. At least, they're not poetry I can understand.
In my own context, I can say that I love Rogue One regardless of its flaws because it has two Chinese heroes in it and at one point, one of them calls their young leader "little sister" in a culturally-specific way that destroyed me. Will it have the same effect on Americans who were not born of Asian parents in this country, forever on the outside looking in and waiting forty years to see themselves represented in a universe of which they have longed to be a part? Doubtful. So Lucky is about May (Grant), a successful self-help writer who, one night home from touring her new book urging followers to "go it alone," sees a masked figure (Hunter C. Smith) standing outside her bedroom window at night. "That's just The Man," says her long-suffering hubby (Dhruv Uday Singh)--the guy who shows up every night to murder them and disappears when rebuffed. This is what is known as being "on the nose."
After a mild domestic row, May is left alone--like her philosophy dictates, natch--and beset nightly by attacks from The Man. She holds her own, and we get a series of nasty but righteous kills. Unfortunately, the cops don't believe her--or else they don't think there's much they can do about it. This is obvious politics if all the cops are men, but they aren't all men, and the shrinks dispatched to test May's sanity are women, so the message seems to be that the system, one that many women buy into, is designed to discount the trauma of women. But then later there's a reveal that all women spend every day fighting off The Man, and I guess I would have been more compelled by images of the women working for "the Man" having their own "Man"s whispering gaslighting sweet nothings in their ears to earn their compliance. Or is the message that some women aren't attacked daily by The Man? And if that's the message, then I guess the message is exclusionary towards some women in a way that is entirely unuseful to the conversation. It's possible I just didn't get it. I accept that.
For all the muddle of its central thesis, Lucky is, on the surface, pretty easy to follow as a metaphor. Women spend their lives fighting off men, literally or metaphorically, in their homes and at their work. May being abandoned early on provides the movie some expository linearity, but really Lucky is only interested in its drum and its unintentional identity as a short-film concept stretched uncomfortably to feature-length. Grant is great (Grant is always great), the direction is clean, and the kills are bloody, but because the lore is fuzzy in the details, it's not entirely clear if there are any literal consequences to any of it, and the peril drains away. You could tell me that's the point, asshole, and I could only respond that you're right, I missed that. You could say I'm not qualified to write about a movie like this, and I can only say: right again; it didn't connect with me in any sort of emotional way. I wish it did, though. Wouldn't that have been cool? Programme: Selection 2020