Monday, March 02, 2009

The Lucky Ones: Grade A

The Lucky Ones (2008)
Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams, Michael Peña; Co-writer & Director Neil Burger

Very strong acting distinguishes this story of three wounded army soldiers returning from the Gulf. Thrown together by a cancelled airline flight, they rent a van and embark on a long road trip. Robbins’ home is visited first but he learns that his wife wants a divorce and his son needs $20K in three weeks for Stanford tuition. McAdams’ expectations are also dashed as she discovers that her dead army boyfriend was a complete fraud. Peña’s character re-thinks his commitment to the army. Along the way, sharing their laughter and tears, the three become friends. We also get several snapshots of how civilian America views its soldiers. The movie conveys a sense of the characters’ simple, uncomplicated, but earnest attitudes and their fish out of water feeling in the “real” (non-military) world. That’s good writing. McAdams is dazzling in this performance, and Robbins is as good as I’ve ever seen him. The film is reminiscent in structure to Heroes, a 1977 film with Henry Winkler as a returning Viet Nam vet, but Lucky Ones lacks the poignancy. The wounds are not severe and are treated with humor. The characters are disoriented and socially inept, but not shunned. This is a lightweight film lacking pathos or message, but the great acting makes it a winner.

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