LUCKY (2020)

Lucky.jpg

Studio:      Shudder
Director:    Natasha Kermani
Writer:      Brea Grant
Producer:  Patrick Ewald, Robert V. Galluzzo, Kimberly Hwang, Chelsea Davenport
Stars:     Brea Grant, Dhruv Uday Singh, Kausar Mohammed, Yasmine Al-Bustami, Leith Burke, Larry Cedar, Hunter C. Smith, Chase Williamson

Review Score:

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Summary:

A self-help author questions her perspective on reality when she becomes inexplicably caught in a cycle of confronting the same masked murderer every day.


Synopsis:     

Review:

When wondering why a film doesn¡¯t connect with you, it can be useful to ask, ¡°Is it because of the movie or is it because of me?¡± In the case of ¡°Lucky¡± not making a mark, it might be me.

I was iffy on whether or not I was right to review ¡°Lucky¡± in the first place. Director Natasha Kermani¡¯s previous feature ¡°Imitation Girl¡± (review here) sailed either over my head or right through mistuned ears. Of that film I wrote, ¡°I don¡¯t ¡®get¡¯ the movie¡¯s metaphoric message. However, I assume it has one hiding somewhere in its ambling assembly of montage musings, introspective interludes, and quiet scenes of character study.¡± Although ¡°Lucky¡± looked like a more linear thriller, I feared it too might wander a road paved for minds more inclined than mine to interpret commentary constructed through allusions.

Independent of that though, Natasha Kermani is an emerging voice in genre filmmaking at a time when indie horror is finally shifting focus onto traditionally marginalized groups, both in front of the camera and behind it. Evolving worldviews are opening more doors for socially relevant stories that prominently feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ themes. It makes sense that Kermani would team with Brea Grant, who wrote ¡°Lucky¡± and also stars in it as May, as they are both on the frontlines of the movement that¡¯s challenging horror to do more than simply recycle the same hollow slashers where a boogeyman slaughters nude camp counselors or what have you.

Putting my cards on the table, I¡¯m a straight white man. Exclude the fact that I¡¯m not wealthy and this essentially positions me near the top of the privilege pyramid. I¡¯m well aware of this, which is why I try as much as possible to keep current on those evolving worldviews I just mentioned regarding equality, inclusion, and understanding changing dynamics around race and gender. I want to remain progressive. But the deeper I get into middle-age, the more I realize some of my perspectives may be calcifying. I¡¯m not an ¡°In my day!¡± old crank complaining about neutral bathrooms by any means. But I notice there are layers to concepts I can¡¯t grasp as easily as I could when I was 20 years younger.

This frames my take on ¡°Lucky¡± because it should be clarified that, although I consider myself an open-minded person who isn¡¯t even close to the intolerant camp of ¡°what is this woke feminist trash Hollywood libtards keep shoving down our throats,¡± it¡¯s entirely possible, maybe even likely, I¡¯m still incapable of ¡°getting¡± the meaning behind a female-forward movie like ¡°Lucky¡± at this point in my life.

¡°Lucky¡± has a hard-hooking elevator pitch. Simplifying the story, it can be called a ¡°Groundhog Day¡± take on home invasion horror.

Self-help author May wakes in the middle of the night to find a masked man stalking outside her house. That¡¯s weird. What¡¯s weirder is May¡¯s husband Ted seems completely unconcerned. Through ¡°I just want to get back to bed¡± grogginess, Ted tells May, ¡°that¡¯s the guy who tries to kill us every night.¡± May can¡¯t believe Ted sounds more annoyed than alarmed. She also can¡¯t believe Ted¡¯s yawning boredom when he calmly explains to police that they beat down the intruder only for him to inexplicably disappear.

May tries asking Ted to explain what¡¯s happening, which only exhausts Ted more. Rather than fight with his wife¡¯s confusion, Ted drives off, leaving May to face five more nights of fighting this masked murderer alone. Each time it¡¯s the same attacker. Each time, no one in May¡¯s life seems to care. Cops are more concerned with questioning May and Ted¡¯s domestic dispute. Ted¡¯s sister swings the subject back to rockiness in the couple¡¯s relationship. May thinks she must be losing her mind. Who is this attacker and why won¡¯t anyone help her?

¡°Lucky¡¯s¡± concept comes with rich intrigue. Stepford Wives stares and cryptic conversations weave a maddening mystery you can¡¯t help but be anxious to solve.

The longer that suspense tries stringing you along however, the more the movie runs out of steam to maintain momentum due to an insensibly unhurried pace and a lack of quirk in the characters. I don¡¯t mean that the people in May¡¯s orbit should be funnier. I mean that their intentional nonchalance falls flat from wooden deliveries. They seem less like odd automatons and more like distractedly dry performers. The characters appear bored, not strange. ¡°Lucky¡± slows to a trudge through nonplussed ennui where May¡¯s cycle becomes redundantly dull instead of increasingly intense.

When I became aware of my interest waning, I started to actively examine why. I paid specific attention to one overlong sequence while trying to deduce the narrative and artistic purposes behind each item¡¯s inclusion.

In this particular montage, May hesitates to pour from a bottle of wine before reconsidering and pouring herself coffee instead. The camera goes through a series of wipe pans where May sits on a couch, ties her shoes, stares contemplatively out a window, and paces while negligible music hums underneath. The soundtrack becomes noticeable only because it stops, amplifying audiovisual stagnation as we shift to watching May lie silently in her bed.

I assume the director¡¯s thought process throughout this is, ¡°the audience needs to see May¡¯s stress and understand its increasing weight on average activities as her day agonizingly advances to night.¡± At the same time though, I don¡¯t see a consideration for, ¡°is an audience going to be interested in seeing this? Is each shot essential? What information is being communicated at the expense of what is being done to captivate attention?¡±

¡°Lucky¡± puts up the appearance of a psychological thriller with supernatural surrealness on top. It¡¯s not that though. As breadcrumbs, and there aren¡¯t many, drop to build what¡¯s behind May¡¯s situation, ¡°Lucky¡± reveals it¡¯s really an exploratory essay about a woman battling metaphoric monsters of bigotry and institutionalized subservience. At least, I think it is.

Brea Grant¡¯s script and Natasha Kermani¡¯s visualization are clearly working out and through interpersonal struggles. But I think I¡¯m ill-equipped to fully parse every facet of their film¡¯s purpose unrelated to the fiction, which is mainly a vehicle for transporting their themes. From my vantage, subtext seems to be about May living in a world she feels she doesn¡¯t understand anymore. Vexing authority figures make assumptions based on preconceptions about relationship hierarchies in the way you¡¯d expect of jaded cops and social workers who¡¯ve seen the same situations so many times, they can¡¯t comprehend nuance.

Possibly, neither can I. I¡¯m fortunate in that I can¡¯t relate to the experience of being a woman who feels unsafe, uncertain, and coerced by systemic gaslighting into unquestioningly accepting things how they are. Try as I might, ¡°Lucky¡¯s¡± meta-meaning missed me. Or perhaps more accurately, I missed it. ¡°Lucky¡± reminds me all films are not for all audiences. Maybe I was never meant to ¡°get¡± it. In the future, maybe I ought to go with my gut and stick to mirthful midnighters about killer puppets or haunted asylums instead.

Review Score: 50