The Lucky Ones
2008, R, 113 min. Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins, Michael Peña, Annie Corley, John Diehl, John Heard, Molly Hagan, Katherine LaNasa.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
So far, the box office has not been terribly kind to movies about the Iraq war or the soldiers who wage it. The Lucky Ones is not likely to alter that situation, although the solid threesome of actors at the film's core and the storyline set entirely on American soil may earn the film greater props from moviegoers than some of the previous films. In many ways, The Lucky Ones is a universal story about rudderless Americans, not just this particular pack of Army veterans. Yet, the story (by director Burger and Dirk Wittenborn) contains too many coincidences and convergences to wholly ring true. Strangers Colee (McAdams), Cheever (Robbins), and T.K. (Peña) are on the same flight from Germany to JFK when they discover that a blackout has canceled all connecting flights out of New York. Colee and T.K. are both on leave from the Army for 30 days, while reservist Cheever has completed his tour of duty and plans to return home for good to his wife and son in St. Louis. Colee and T.K. are headed to Las Vegas, each on a separate mission, so the three soldiers rent a car and head west. Colee is a spirited and open-hearted young woman who hopes to be taken in by her dead boyfriend's parents whom she has never met. T.K. suffered a groin injury and plans to visit some Vegas "pros" who might help him get his equipment working before having to confess the injury to his girlfriend. Cheever's expectation of picking up his old life ends abruptly when his wife tells him upon his arrival that she wants a divorce, his son informs him that $20,000 is needed in three weeks' time in order for him to go to Stanford, and he learns that his former job at the plant has been eradicated by cutbacks. Reeling from all the news, Cheever continues on with the others to Vegas. Many more events occur all along the way that bond the three and conspire to make them a battle-tested unit. Robbins is quietly effective as the elder of the bunch, while Peña shows us something of the growth of a cocky kid into sobering adulthood. The film's contemporary realism differs radically in style from Burger's surprise hit The Illusionist. More than a story about Iraq war veterans, The Lucky Ones is a movie about carefully considering one's options.