On September 17th, 2017, Harry Dean Stanton passed away at the age of 91 years old. He lived the life of an actor, but known more specifically as a character actor. Character actors are known as people who play bizarre, memorable characters in films, who usually appear as a side role. It’s no surprise then that Stanton was a favourite in David Lynch’s films, appearing countless times throughout his long line of surreal creations. Stanton has had few lead acting roles, including that of Repo Man, Paris, Texas and, as one of this final films, Lucky.
Lucky is directed by John Carroll Lynch, who, similarly to Stanton, is widely known for his supporting roles in films as an actor, including Zodiac, The Founder, and American Horror Story. This is his first time stepping into the role as a director, and it goes without saying that he’s a natural at it, in his own way. Stanton is joined in the cast by Ron Livingston, famous for Office Space, and David Lynch, the man himself. As a side note, I find it interesting that three films debuted this year; Logan, Logan Lucky, and Lucky, as well as Logan Sparks co-writing Lucky itself. So, try not to get too confused.
Before I get into what Lucky truly means, let’s look at what Lucky is on the outside. Lucky is a 88 minute drama following the day to day life of Lucky, a 90 year old Atheist who is still kicking, even though he smokes a pack a day. Lucky’s dialogue is very conversational, but existential in nature, discussing the meaning of life, friendship and tortoises. Each actor displays a fantastic performance, and really sell it as real as they can. The visuals are simple, and sometimes surreal, edging into the area that David Lynch favours so well. The score however is something that hits home for me. Simple harmonica tunes with a western spin to it send my back to when I listened to Van Morrison and Bob Dylan with my father on his old cassettes. This kind of music is that of remembrance, old classics, and age. However, Lucky has a lot more to say internally.
Lucky, in itself, is a homage to Harry Dean Stanton’s life, whether is meant too or not. Each character is interesting, memorable, and a little kooky, queuing off Stanton’s long career of creating characters with this sole nature. Alongside this, the character of Lucky feels like it would be Stanton in real life, if not a exaggerated version of him. Even some lines which Lucky has can be traced to Stanton’s own comments in interviews. “I’m 87 years old…I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive.. The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes.” Two years after he said this, Lucky was filmed, and the simple image that Stanton created here is almost splitting to that of what you see in Lucky.
However, Lucky isn’t just about Stanton. More importantly, it’s about death, and acceptance of such. Lucky explores what it means to be happy, and have friendship. Death surrounds us all, but this doesn’t mean we need to be afraid of it, or talk about if we are or not. Lucky is about just that. Lucky to be here, lucky to live, lucky to have friends and experience life and what it has to offer. But in the end death comes to us all, the only thing that is inevitable. Stanton’s other comment back in 2014 encapsulates the message Lucky wishes to tell, and a very similar line to this appears in the climax of the movie itself.
“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.”
Lucky teaches us that we shouldn’t fear death, but you must learn what death truly is. That there is no going back, no second chances. Harry Dean Stanton’s life came to a close this year, but his legacy will live on through hundreds of examples of what he chose to do with his life. Lucky is the final piece which closes a truly fascinating existence, which we have been blessed to witness on film. Lucky opens November 16th, 2017.
Written by Hamish Vallance