Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express



I read thirty or more Agatha Christie detective novels when I was in my twenties and that included many of the novels featuring the Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot. I’ve always enjoyed watching the film and TV adaptations of the Poirot novels, with a special appreciation for the ways Peter Ustinov and David Suchet played the role of Poirot. It is generally accepted (by me as well) that Suchet was the best Poirot, and I admit to feeling disappointed at the way Kenneth Branagh (who also directed) played Poirot during the early minutes of Murder on the Orient Express, partly because it seemed so unlike Suchet. But Branagh’s performance grew on me very quickly and, by the end of the film, I had decided that it was my second-favourite thing about this new version of the film. Whether it was any better than Suchet’s performance in the same story, I can’t say, because that was one of Suchet’s later performances as Poirot and I haven’t had the chance to see it (I did see and enjoy Alfred Molina’s take on Poirot in this story (in 2001) but I prefer Branagh). As for the Albert Finney version, well, that was a classic.

My favourite thing about the new Murder on the Orient Express was the way the cinematography and score helped to create a well-rendered dark atmosphere for the film. It’s a beautiful film to watch and the darker take on the story worked well for me, especially with its strong period feel.

I won’t say much about the plot of Murder on the Orient Express. Those who aren’t familiar with it should know as little as possible. I will just say that Poirot finds himself on the Orient Express, travelling from Istanbul to Paris, when a murder takes place on board. As he tries to use his brilliant deductive powers to find the killer, he is constantly frustrated by the inconsistent stories of a number of the passengers, more than one of whom seem to have a motive for killing the victim, but all of whom have alibis. 

The passengers, whom I won’t name, are played by the following actors (among others): Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom, Jr., Willem Dafoe, Olivia Colman and Judi Dench. It’s a strong cast, always fun to watch, and the actors deliver solid performances, though most are barely more than cameos. Indeed, the film’s biggest flaw is the lack of attention paid to the various passengers and their stories. The later part of the film (until the last twenty minutes or so) drags because of the poor character development (some of which is also seen in the novel). It also makes for a confusing denouement that lacks the suspense the story calls for. 

Nevertheless, there are aspects of the ending of this adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express that I liked very much, for reasons that I won’t provide, and while this adaptation is by no means a classic, I did find it a very satisfying entertainment, deserving of at least ***, if not a little bit more. My mug is up.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Back to Burgundy

The critics are not especially impressed with this mild-mannered French comedy drama, Ce qui nous lie, and I think I understand why. A couple plot shifts are abrupt and occasionally convenient. It did, however, hit the right notes for me, and the weaknesses didn’t interfere with my appreciation. 

First it is an earthy film. The physical presence of the terroir is impressive. It could serve as a year in the life of a small French vineyard and that would have been beautiful and interesting enough. It was hard not to have a glass of wine in hand, though – it felt like a live wine tasting should be integrated with a viewing of the movie. (If you should watch this at home, I recommend picking up the best Burgundy you can afford, preferably from a small family vineyard, while watching.)

But integrated with this earthy setting are the lives of the three siblings who inherit this land together. They share one financial problem as part of this inheritance while each carrying their own life problems. One thing that impressed me was that the issues were not over-dramatized. The result might make the plot too quiet for some, but something quite realistic was gained. Patience and a mixture of false starts and baby steps were more involved than dramatic turning points.

The main themes all mean a great deal to me: family connections over time, including the bittersweet tensions between commitments and freedoms; connections with place and land; and the paradox of accepting inconsistencies. 

The writing could have used a little tweak here and there but the acting, cinematography and music all worked well. ***+  and a mug up from me.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Lady Bird



Wow!

I guess it’s that time of year.

I have noted here before that films written and directed by women, and starring a woman, are few and far between. But I have watched more of such films in the past eighteen months than ever before, suggesting that the current statistic of only 7% of films being directed by women is about to change significantly (yay!). Novitiate and Lady Bird, coincidentally both about teenage girls in Catholic settings and both made by first-time directors, are far and away the best of such films I have seen in the past few years, though only Lady Bird is assured a place in my top ten films of 2017. Like Novitiate, Lady Bird is precisely the kind of film that only a woman could make. It’s no surprise to me that Greta Gerwig, writer and star of Frances Ha and star of last year’s Maggie’s Plan, has, at the age of 34, become one of the best filmmakers out there.

Like Three Billboards, Lady Bird is called a quirky comedy drama. But it could not bear less resemblance to Three Billboards. At first glance, Lady Bird looks like a typical coming-of-age film about a headstrong but insecure seventeen-year-old’s last year of high school (in Sacramento in 2002/3). That doesn’t sound original, and the experiences of the girl in question don’t seem particularly original, but the way the story is told and acted feels remarkably fresh, eliciting a number of silent wows from me as I sat in the theatre (surrounded by women; I saw only two other men in the theatre).

‘Lady Bird’ is the name our protagonist has given herself (her parents named her ‘Christine’) and what she insists everyone calls her. And while much of the film follows Lady Bird’s adventures in school or with her classmates, the film’s opening scenes signal the fact that, at its heart, Lady Bird is a film about the relationship between a mother and daughter. This is fortunate for the viewers, because the actors playing the mother and daughter provide two of the best performances you will ever see (I expect both to be nominated for Academy Awards). Lady Bird is played by Saoirse Ronan, who, at the age of 23, has already received two Oscar nominations and is probably about to get her third (she may even win this time). Her incredibly natural portrayal of a lower-middle-class girl’s struggles at home and in the Catholic school she attends is jaw-dropping. But Laurie Metcalf’s performance as Marion, Lady Bird’s domineering mother, who just doesn’t know how to care for, or show love for, her daughter, may be even better. 

Other actors of note, all of whom are excellent, include two up-and-coming young actors (Lucas Hedges from Manchester by the Sea and Three Billboards as Danny, Lady Bird’s first boyfriend, and Timothée Chalamet, who was so phenomenal in Call Me By your Name, as Kyle, another boy in Lady Bird’s life), as well as Tracy Letts as Larry, Lady Bird’s understanding father, Lois Smith as Sister Sarah Joan, the wise and kind school principal, Beanie Feldstein as Julie, Lady Bird’s closest friend, Odeya Rush as Jenna, the popular girl Lady Bird befriends (at Julie’s expense), and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Father Leviatch, the gentle acting instructor who is clearly struggling with some deep emotional issues.

The beautifully-drawn characters are one of the things that make Lady Bird special, but even better, for me, is how sympathetic all of the characters are (Lady Bird’s teachers and principal are a prime example). There is a stark contrast between the characters and dialogue in Lady Bird and those in Novitiate, Three Billboards or The Florida Project. All four films feature sympathetic characters and well-written intelligent dialogue, but Lady Bird doesn’t feel as raw as the others, even though it feels every bit as real as The Florida Project. As a result, even with the difficult ongoing tension between Marion and Lady Bird, Lady Bird (the film) is a much warmer film than the others. This doesn’t make it a better film, but it’s one of the things that makes Lady Bird feel fresh.

The humour in Lady Bird is another. The humour is natural and endearing, not silly or forced (even when a football coach diagrams stage movements for a play, the funniest scene in the film). Lady Bird’s depiction of Christianity is yet another example. Not afraid to either criticize religion or show its strengths, the film touches gently on Lady Bird’s own changing feelings about God and the church while at the same time providing glimpses of her growth into a thoughtful young woman over the course of a year. 

Finally, a note about the cinematography and music, both of which were carefully done to provide exactly the right feel for the time, the situation and the city of Sacramento, which plays a major role in the film (there’s a wonderful scene near the end in which the principal talks to Lady Bird about Sacramento). 

Lady Bird is insightful and well-made filmmaking at its very best. **** My mug is up.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri



A smart and wise man once asked me (that would be my son-in-law, Laurens, yesterday morning): “Vic, how can you give three stars to a film when your review is so negative?” Walter understands this sentiment very well, as he has asked me the same question more than once. After watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri yesterday afternoon, I do think something about my rating system needs to change. Why? Because the number of stars deserved by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri exceeds the number of stars I gave Justice League by much more than one, but one is all I have left to give.

Before I say more, a word to the writers of Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok: If you want to know what original, imaginative stories look like, watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:

Wow!

What a thrill to watch a film that surprised me time and again, that wasn’t like anything I remember watching before. This is what good writing is all about; it’s no surprise that it was written (and directed) by Martin McDonagh, who gave us the original In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Thank goodness the trailers for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (of which I had seen at least parts) gave me no idea what was coming. The film is being called a dark comedy drama, which I suppose is accurate, though a strong emphasis needs to be placed on the drama (as opposed to the comedy), with the word ‘dark’ clearly referring to both the drama and the comedy. I would probably describe it as a quirky dark drama, with humour, similar but decidedly different from the work of the Coen brothers.

The story concerns Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), whose teenage daughter Angela was raped and murdered nine months before. During that nine months, Mildred has seen no evidence that the police in Ebbing have done much to find Angela’s killer, so she buys advertising on three billboards near her home (on a seldom-used highway) to ask ‘why not’, aimed specifically at the popular Ebbing chief of police, William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Willoughby is dying of pancreatic cancer, so the billboards create a big stir and bring a lot of hatred down on Mildred and the billboard owner, Red Whelby (Caleb Landry Jones). Even Mildred’s son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges), is furious with his mother’s behaviour. Not to mention Charlie (John Hawkes), her ex-husband. But the most angry person in Ebbing is Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), Willoughby’s second-in-command, who worships the ground Willoughby walks on and wants to see the foul-mouthed Mildred put behind bars. Very few people in Ebbing wouldn’t agree. One of them is James (Peter Dinklage), a lonely car dealer with a crush on her. I won’t say anymore about the plot, because this is a film I recommend to all who can handle the violence and the darkness.

Other actors of note are Clarke Peters, who plays Abercrombie, a police officer forced to step into the situation in Ebbing, and Abbie Cornish, who plays Anne (Willoughby’s wife). The acting is stellar by all concerned, but Rockwell is nothing short of phenomenal, with some sensational assistance by McDormand and Harrelson. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also features gorgeous cinematography and a nice score.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri does have some rough edges, and a couple of scenes bothered me a lot (i.e. I would have written them differently), but, on the whole, I was blown away by the intelligence and humanization of the film. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may be a very dark film, but there is a fair bit of light in all the right places (and I will say no more). ****. My mug is up, along with a guaranteed place in my top ten films of 2017. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Justice League



I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been a DC fan since the age of seven (a long time ago), with my favourite superheroes being Batman and The Flash, so, despite the mediocre reviews from critics, I needed to go watch Justice League. After all, I liked Batman vs. Superman a lot more than the critics did, despite Ben Affleck’s presence as Batman. 

I watched Justice League in 2D IMAX, the only way to watch this film. And I must note, right off, that, unlike Ragnarok, the cinematography suffers very little by being made-for-3D. Indeed, Justice League looked gorgeous on the IMAX screen and this alone was worth the price of admission. I especially enjoyed the continued dark atmosphere of the Zack Snyder DC films, helped by Danny Elfman’s score, which, while nothing special, did what was needed. 

Justice League tells the story of how Bruce Wayne (Batman), with the help of Alfred (Jeremy Irons), brings together a group of superheroes to fight the big bad Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), who wants nothing less than to make planet earth his own. To do this, Steppenwolf needs three boxes full of primal energy that have been kept hidden and protected by the three groups who had fought and defeated  Steppenwolf once before (the Amazons, the Atlantans, and regular humans). For some reason, Steppenwolf has little trouble finding and acquiring the boxes. Indeed, before Bruce Wayne manages to bring the Justice League together, Steppenwolf has already brought the three boxes together to create the mighty power that will destroy the planet. Can the Justice League possibly arrive in time to save humanity? And what about Superman? Can they do it without him? Isn’t he dead? What would happen if a way was found to bring him back to life - would that be a good idea?

The questions above should be read in a tone that lets you know how little I respect the plot of Justice League. It is every bit as inane as the plot of Ragnarok, and that is saying something. Big baddie wants to destroy the world. Superheroes fight together (after many arguments and much sarcastic repartee) to destroy big baddie. The end! What a crock! How is it that the writers of superhero films (and no less than Joss Whedan was involved in writing Justice League) have such a limited imagination when it comes to telling an original or at least entertaining story. They just tell the same old story over and over and over again, ad nauseam, hoping that all the mindless action and a few lines of entertaining dialogue will be enough to bring in the masses. Surely, one of these days, the masses will get bored (but not yet, since Justice League had one of the 25 highest-grossing opening weekends of all time, though it's viewed a failure because it didn't perform as well at the U.S. box office as it was supposed to).

As in Ragnarok, the characters in Justice League are occasionally fun to watch, especially The Flash, played well by Ezra Miller. Other Justice League members include Batman, Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and, if he weren’t so very dead, Superman (Henry Cavill). The Justice League 'origin story', while by no means original, was at least at lot more entertaining than the Steppenwolf story. Amy Adams does well as Lois Lane, but how could she have so much airtime if Superman is dead? Sigh. Other than Miller, the acting certainly wasn’t outstanding, but it was passable (I’m even getting used to Affleck as Batman).

The  bottom line is that I enjoyed Justice League about as much as I enjoyed Ragnarok (though for different reasons), which means I did think it was worth a look. *** My mug is up, but one of these days the lack of an original flavour inside will make me turn these mugs down. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer



The Lobster, written and directed by Giorgos Lanthimos, was one of my favourite films of 2016, so, with some serious buzz at Cannes this year, I thought I’d better go see the new Lanthimos film: The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Not the wisest filmgoing decision I’ve made recently. I actually regretted having seen it, something which thankfully only happens a couple of times a year.

Reviewers who loved the film wrote things like: “Be warned: This is tough stuff,” “a brooding requiem of domestic horror,” “When absurdism feels this wrong, you know it’s being done right,” (the logic of that comment escapes me) “The experience is exquisite agony, both revelatory and painful,” “it traps us within its terrifying and bizarre situation,” “one of the most disturbing films of the year.” With the last comment, I have no argument, but I do have a problem with viewing absurd, agonizingly painful terror as exquisite, let alone as art. One could say that mother! is a similar experience, but that was pure allegory and therefore forgivable. The Killing of a Sacred Deer must be something as well. It’s based on an ancient Greek play by Euripides (Iphigenia at Aulis), but that doesn’t excuse it. Calling it absurdist humour is certainly accurate, but sometimes absurdist humour crosses a line that shouldn’t be crossed. For me, this is one of those times.

Of course, it’s not just absurdist humour or a psychological thriller (as I thought it was) but a true horror film in every way. This is a genre for which I generally have little respect - sorry, Jeremy. I’m not going to tell you what The Killing of a Sacred Deer is about; not because of possible spoilers (since I don’t expect many readers to watch the film), but because even to read an overview of the film’s plot can give you nightmares. 

I was cringing from the opening shot: a surgery being performed by Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), our protagonist. We soon learn that the teenage Martin (Barry Keoghan), is stalking Steven for some reason, something that Steven knows and seems to accept at some level. But then Martin insists on coming over for dinner to meet the family: Steven’s wife, Anna (Nicole Kidman), his teenage daughter, Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and his son, Bob (Sunny Suljic). And things get pretty crazy after that (I will say no more).

All of the acting is, I believe, excellent, though in an absurd film like this, it’s sometimes hard to judge. The cinematography and score also work well for the kind of film it is, but, as I have intimated above, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is not my kind of film, regardless of what it’s trying to say (one reviewer describes it as a profound meditation on karma, predestination and guilt; maybe it is, but it still doesn’t work for me). **+ for the absurdist humour and the performances. My mug is down. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Thor: Ragnarok



REWRITTEN and UPDATED (at the end)!

In my ongoing efforts to understand why so many people (including certain youngest daughters who shall remain nameless) enjoy the Marvel films so much, I decided I’d better give Ragnarok a peak. This resulted in four very different responses at various points in the film:
  1. My first response, after about ten minutes, was to walk out and not subject myself to any more torture. Not the torture on screen, which was relatively minimal, but the torture of watching Thor be so silly while chained up in front of the super-powerful giant baddie with horns and glowing eyes (Surtur?). Wasn't working for me at all.
  2. Just in the nick of time (i.e. just as I was about to get up and leave), I did a double-take: Was that Matt Damon, ever so well disguised? It WAS! And Sam Neill is there too. Well, that was fun. Maybe I should stick around and see who else turns up. It didn’t take long after that to see that the big baddie of Ragnarok (Hela, Thor’s older sister and the Goddess of Death) was played by Cate Blanchett. Blanchett does baddie very well, so she was fun to watch. And of course there are other interesting actors in Ragnarok, like Tom Hiddleston as Loki (Thor’s brother and former baddie), Benedict Cumberbatch in a cameo as Dr. Strange, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (Hulk), Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, and the ever-quirky Jeff Goldblum as yet another baddie. The primary 'goodies' here are Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tessa Thompson as a Valkyrie. Hemsworth is okay, but Thompson is the show-stealer, along with Korg (voiced by the director, Taika Waititi), who never fails to amuse. In other words, by far the best thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the acting, which is mostly fun to watch throughout.
  3. Insofar as the above actors were given funny, often droll, lines, I frequently enjoyed the writing in the film, so much so that by mid-way through (or maybe even two-thirds), I was glad I had decided to watch Ragnarok after all.
  4. Then came the realization, which grew stronger with every one of the film’s last forty minutes, that Ragnarok had no plot worthy of the word and that it was, after all, nothing more than an excuse for more endless PG violence (evil sister comes back to take over Asgard only to be defeated by Thor and company; That’s it? Seriously???). In other words, by far the worst thing about Thor: Ragnarok is that there is no story to even begin to excuse the endless violence (see revised opinion below).
By the end of the film, I was just shaking my head. It didn’t help that the otherwise gorgeous cinematography was mostly ruined by being made for 3D (I watched the 2D). The score had its moments. Bottom line: Watching the fun the actors were having allowed Thor: Ragnarok to just cross the line into watchability: ***. My mug is up. [At this point, my original review stated that the stuff inside the mug was very weak and unimaginative, but I am taking that back, thanks to Andrew Buhr in Edmonton, who sent me the following link: http://endlessyarning.com/2017/11/12/thor-ragnarok-indigenous-film/ . While I had picked up on how the humour in Ragnarok often had a justice theme, I had missed many of the ways this film could be viewed through an Indigenous lens (read the Indigenous review). I stand corrected and humbled, though my complaints about the overall plot and the endless violence remain in effect. Given that the story does, however, possess deeper layers worthy of discussion, I am upgrading my rating to a solid ***. My mug is up without qualification.]

Monday, 13 November 2017

Victoria and Abdul



I couldn’t stop shaking my head after watching Stephen Frears' Victoria and Abdul - not because of what I had just seen but because of why so many critics condemned the film. I have frequently criticized film critics for not paying enough attention to the moral compass of a film; for acclaiming certain well-made films which I felt should have been denounced for some of their content (especially the myth of redemptive violence). The film It is a recent example. So imagine my surprise when the critics finally condemn a film for its lack of a moral compass, only to see them do so on rather flimsy grounds.

Victoria and Abdul tells the story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with an Indian Muslim named Abdul Karim near the end of her life (1900-1901). Karim (Ali Fazal) is sent to London to present a commemorative coin to the queen (Judi Dench). Victoria is impressed by Karim’s manner and handsome features and, to the consternation of her son, Bertie (Eddie Izzard), and her entire household (led by Sir Henry, played by Tim Pigott-Smith), Karim becomes Victoria’s spiritual advisor and close friend, eventually bringing his wife and mother-in-law to live with him at the palace. 

Victoria and Abdul begins with what I read as a disclaimer, that it is “based on true events … mostly.” When I read those words, I assumed the film was actually taking quite a few liberties with reality and should not be viewed as anything like a reliable historical account. But the strongest criticisms of the film all refer to the way it whitewashes the queen and British colonialism. 

I know the history of Victoria’s empire and British colonial oppression in India well enough to say that if the film was trying to provide any kind of accurate historical commentary, it should indeed be condemned, because it paints Victoria with a very sympathetic brush, making her seem like a queen trying to promote anti-racism and religious tolerance in defiance of all those around her, and it paints Karim as a naive star-struck innocent who adores the queen and quickly devotes his life to her. Of course that doesn’t reflect the reality of life in India at the time or tell us what Victoria was really like (and there is a character in the film, namely Mohammed, played by Adeel Akhtar, who continuously condemns the colonialist attitudes around him and is angry with his friend Abdul). Whatever the true story of Victoria and Abdul might have been, this film is but a light-hearted take on it (almost a farce) and does not deserve to be condemned as skewing history. 

This doesn’t mean that viewers shouldn’t be made aware of the true history and realize how inaccurate the portrayals are, and that the lingering effects of British colonialism around the world continue to be responsible for much suffering. But watching Victoria and Abdul on its own terms allows us to smile at what might have been, while admiring the way the film itself is clearly condemning racist, classist and intolerant attitudes. And how many films these days give us a sympathetic Muslim protagonist (who, regardless of his flaws and apparent naiveté, is nevertheless portrayed as a kind intelligent man)?

As for Victoria and Abdul as a film: The acting is solid throughout (Dench, as usual, is magnificent), the cinematography is outstanding, with each scene carefully framed, the score is more than good enough and the writing is (given the above) often excellent. My strongest criticism is that we don’t get enough character development for Karim, either by way of a backstory or by way of his family life. The film also tells its story in too formulaic a way. Either more of an effort to make it a farce or more dramatic tension might have been helpful.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, Victoria and Abdul deserves at least a solid *** (if not ***+ for Dench’s performance alone). My mug is up.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lucky (2017 EIFF 13)



The closing film of the 2017 EIFF was one of the most inspiring films of the festival and, given the recent passing of Harry Dean Stanton, a fitting way to end the festival. 

Lucky, directed by John Carroll Lynch, stars the 90-year-old Stanton as Lucky, a WWII veteran living by himself in a small house on the outskirts of a small town in the Arizona desert. When Lucky collapses suddenly in his home, it takes a toll on his carefully structured life and makes him realize that he will not be living forever. 

We follow Lucky as he goes to the local coffee shop and talks to Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley), the owner, and Loretta (Yvonne Huff), a waitress who will visit Lucky at home later in the film (in one of the film’s many precious moments). Lucky goes on to visit his other regular haunts, including  the local bar, owned by Elaine and Paulie (Beth Grant and James Darren), who like to argue with Lucky (who is an atheist obsessed with truth and realism). At the bar, Lucky meets Howard (David Lynch), whose turtle has run off. Then there’s Ed Begley, Jr. as Lucky's doctor, Ron  Livingston as an insurance agent (Lucky detests such people) and Tom Skerritt as a fellow WWII veteran, a stranger who is just passing through.

Lucky is a slow-paced film that follows Lucky’s daily routine and his relationships/discussions with the townsfolk. There is otherwise no plot to speak of. But the discussions are often riveting (especially the one with Skerritt) or moving (e.g. the one with Livingston) or profound. And when Lucky suddenly breaks out in a Spanish song at a birthday party, you know this is something special (Stanton was a musician). 

One of the writers of Lucky attended the festival and did a Q&A after the film. He noted (no surprise) that Lucky’s personality is very similar to Stanton’s own personality. He also noted that the actors in the film were friends of Stanton who were eager to participate. This provides some excellent acting work for such a low-budget indie film, but it also gives us a few performances that were a little less than convincing. Stanton, though, makes up for all of them with a sublime performance that is the perfect end to his acting career.

The writing was very good but a little uneven, providing moments of brilliance but also moments that falter, with some missed opportunities to go deeper. Among Lucky’s more memorable quotes: “I know the truth and the truth matters”; “the only thing worse than an awkward silence: small talk”; and “there’s a difference between lonely and being alone.” The cinematography and score are excellent. Lucky is a humble humanizing film about death and loneliness that falls just a little short of being a classic. It gets a solid ***+, verging on ****. My mug is up.