A good film, one of a handful of dramatically viable and necessary features to emerge from America's war in
Iraq, came out of the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.
Unfortunately it wasn't "The Lucky Ones." It was Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," scheduled for a 2009
"The Lucky Ones" is softer and more seriocomic, hewing to the genres of the home-front picture and
the road movie. Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena portray three soldiers back in the States from
their respective tours of duty in Iraq.
They meet on the plane home from Germany. Colee (McAdams) has a leg
injury and an irrepressibly optimistic soul; her destination is Las Vegas, where she plans to deliver the
treasured guitar of her late boyfriend to the boyfriend's parents. T.K. (Pena), also bound for the West,
is coping with a shrapnel wound that has left him sexually dysfunctional, an issue he'd like to clear up
before reuniting with his girlfriend.
The father figure is played by Robbins, eager to get back to his family and leave the Army for civilian life. Right away in "The Lucky Ones" you feel director and co-writer Neil Burger struggling to arrange all the narrative furniture. Circumstances contrive to get these three to share a rental car from New York to St. Louis. Circumstances contrive to bring Colee, at a roadside tavern in Indiana, face-to-face with the meanest, most venal young women on the planet, who mock her injury, malign her service, and then -- powww!!!!! -- right on cue, she belts one of them in an awkwardly rabble-rousing moment.
Five seconds after Robbins' character arrives home with his newfound pals, his unfeeling wife is telling him the marriage is over. And so it goes. Burger has made two very intriguing pictures before "The Lucky Ones": "Interview With the Assassin" and "The Illusionist." Toss "The Lucky Ones" in with those two, and you have three very different projects stylistically and narratively, united only by Burger's facility with actors. While Robbins may be miscast (nothing in his demeanor or body language suggests any sort of military man) in the frequent, protracted scenes on the road, the actor works up a comfortable rhythm with his fellow performers. McAdams in particular, playing a kind of dream version of Lynndie England, finds some intriguing nooks and crannies beneath her character's sunny exterior.
But the film itself, which has everything from erection jokes to a computer-generated tornado, comes down to a battle between the interpreters and a screenplay riddled with convenience, cliche and well-meaning contrivance.
MPAA rating: R (for language and some sexual content).
Running time: 1:53.
Starring: Rachel McAdams (Colee Dunn); Tim Robbins (Fred Cheever); Michael Pena (T.K. Poole).
Directed by Neil Burger; written by Burger and Dirk Wittenborn; photographed by Declan Quinn; edited by Naomi Geraghty; music by Rolfe Kent; produced by Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Schwartz and Neil Burger. A Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions release.
About the Movie "The Lucky Ones"
When three very different U.S. soldiers find themselves on an unplanned road trip across America, they form a deep bond that may be the closest thing any of them has to real family. A humorous and timely drama about coming home, The Lucky Ones stars Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Wedding Crashers), Tim Robbins (Mystic River, The Shawshank Redemption) and Michael Peña (Crash, World Trade Center), and is directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) from a screenplay by Burger and Dirk Wittenborn.
T.K. Poole (Michael Peña), Colee Dunn (Rachel McAdams) and Fred Cheever (Tim Robbins) arrive in New York from Germany only to find their connecting flights canceled due to a power outage. Anxious to get to their respective destinations, they agree to share a rented minivan to suburban St. Louis where Cheever is to reunite with his wife and teenage son. From there, the other two plan to fly to Las Vegas where the macho T.K. wants to make an important stop before seeing his fiancée and the tough yet naïve Colee plans to pay a visit to a fallen fellow-soldier's family.
But when Cheever's homecoming turns out to be a far cry from what he anticipated, the trio's one-day drive expands into an impromptu cross-country marathon. Along the way, they experience a string of surprising adventures ranging from the hilarious to the heartbreaking. As their interstate journey takes them from a barroom brawl to a high society dance to a bizarre Sunday morning church service, T.K., Colee and Cheever discover that home is not quite what they remembered and the unlikely companionship they've found in one another might be what matters most of all.
The Lucky Ones is a Lionsgate Film and QED International presentation of a Koppelman & Levien Production and Overnight Production starring Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Peña. Neil Burger directed the film from a screenplay he wrote with Dirk Wittenborn. The producers are Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Schwartz and Burger, and the executive producers are Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Elliot Ferwerda, Brian McCormack, Marina Grasic and Jan Korbelin. The Lucky Ones is rated R for language and some sexual content.
About the Cast & Crew "The Lucky Ones"
RACHEL McADAMS (Colee) captured the attention of Hollywood when she landed the
starring role in the major studio comedy The Hot Chick (2002). Following The Hot Chick, the
Canadian actress landed the female lead opposite Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, directed by
Nick Cassavettes. After The Notebook, McAdams starred opposite Lindsay Lohan in Mean
Girls, written by Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey and produced by Lorne Michaels.
In the summer of 2005, McAdams was seen in The Wedding Crashers, starring opposite
Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Christopher Walken. The film has made more than $200
million at the domestic box office.
She also starred in the thriller Red Eye, directed by Wes Craven and co-starring Cillian
Murphy, followed by the holiday drama The Family Stone, with Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica
Parker and Claire Danes.
Soon to be released is the independent film Married Life, in which she stars opposite
Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper and Patricia Clarkson. A story about marriage and murder in the
1940s, the film was directed by Ira Sachs and recently premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
Another upcoming film is The Time Traveler's Wife, opposite Eric Bana. The romance is
based on the popular novel about a Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily
time travel and the complications this creates for his marriage and life.
Recently McAdams began filming Universal's State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren with Kevin McDonald directing.
In 2005, McAdams received ShoWest's award for supporting actress of the year as well as the Hollywood Film Award as breakthrough actress of the year.
TIM ROBBINS (Cheever) is a critically acclaimed actor, writer, producer and director
who recently appeared in Phillip Noyce's Catch a Fire, Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds
and Isabel Coixet's Secret Life of Words. In 2003, Robbins starred in Mystic River, for which he
won the Academy Award for best supporting actor. Other memorable roles include his
performances in The Shawshank Redemption, The Player, Bull Durham, Jacob's Ladder, Bob
Roberts, The Hudsucker Proxy, Short Cuts, High Fidelity and Five Corners.
In addition to his Academy Award, Robbins has won the best actor award at the Cannes
International Film Festival and the Golden Globe Award for best performance by an actor for
The Player. In 2003 Robbins won a Golden Globe Award, a SAG Award, and a Critics' Choice
Award for best supporting actor for Mystic River. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award
for best performance by an actor for Bob Roberts and by the Screen Actors Guild for outstanding
performance by a male actor for The Shawshank Redemption.
As a director Robbins has distinguished himself with Cradle Will Rock, which he also
wrote and produced, winning the best film director honors at the Barcelona/Sitges Film Festival
and the National Board of Review Award for special achievement in filmmaking. Dead Man
Walking, which he also wrote and produced, won multiple awards, including the Humanitas
Award and four awards at the Berlin Film Festival, the Oscar for best actress for Susan Sarandon
as well as an Oscar nomination for best director, and a Golden Globe nomination for best original script.
His first film, Bob Roberts, won the Bronze Award for best film at the Tokyo
International Film Festival and best film, best director and best actor awards at the Boston Film
Festival. In addition, Robbins served as executive producer for the films Specter of Hope and
The Typewriter, The Rifle, and The Movie Camera, a documentary about filmmaker Sam Fuller that won the CableACE Award for best documentary.
Robbins is the artistic director of the Actors' Gang, a group formed in 1982 that has more
than 85 productions and 100 awards to its credit. He has written seven plays produced in Los
Angeles, New York, Chicago and at the Edinburgh Festival. He most recently wrote and
directed Embedded, which was performed at the Actors' Gang Theatre in Los Angeles, the
Public Theatre in New York and at Riverside Studios in London as well as on a U.S. national
tour with stops in both blue and red states.
MICHAEL PEÑA (TK) has distinguished himself as an actor with a wide range of
performances who has worked with an impressive roster of award-winning directors. Peña
earned recognition for his performance in Paul Haggis' provocative Oscar-winning film Crash,
alongside Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard. Critically acclaimed for the film's
interpretation of complex race relations in contemporary America, Peña garnered multiple best
ensemble nominations for his role as Daniel the locksmith, winning awards from the Screen
Actors Guild and the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the cast's performance.
More recently, Peña was seen in Robert Redford's political drama Lions for Lambs, along
with Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, and starred opposite Nicolas Cage as a Port Authority
policeman in Oliver Stone's World Trade Center.
Peña's other credits include Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, Matthew Ryan
Hoge's The United States of Leland and Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers. Peña was also
recently seen starring opposite Mark Walhberg in Antoine Fuqua's Shooter as well as in
Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel.
On television, Peña starred in the HBO film Walkout. Based on the true story of a young
Mexican American high school teacher who helped stage a massive student walkout in the mid-1960s,
the production earned Peña an Imagen Award for best actor in the television category. He
also guest appeared on the F/X drama The Shield for its fourth season as one of the central leads
opposite Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson. Other television credits include Steven
Spielberg's NBC series Semper Fi.
Raised in Chicago, Peña began acting when he beat out hundreds of others in an open call
for a role in Peter Bogdonovich's To Sir, With Love 2, starring Sidney Poitier.
NEIL BURGER is the director, co-writer and producer of The Lucky Ones. He also wrote and directed The Illusionist, starring Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography and an Independent Spirit Award for best screenplay.
Previously Burger wrote and directed Interview With the Assassin, winner of best feature film at both the Woodstock Film Festival and the Avignon Film Festival, and nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards, including best first film and best first screenplay. He has also directed commercials for the likes of MasterCard, IBM and ESPN, and was chosen to create a series of television spots for Amnesty International and their campaign for “prisoners of conscience.” A graduate of Yale University with a degree in fine arts, Burger lives in New York City with his family.
DIRK WITTENBORN (writer) is a novelist, screenwriter and producer. He wrote the critically acclaimed novel Fierce People as well as the screenplay for the film adaptation, which was directed by Griffin Dunne. His novels have been translated into 10 languages, and he is the Emmy-nominated producer of the HBO documentary about children of the superrich, Born Rich. His new novel, Pharmakon, will be published by Viking in the summer of 2008 .
The Lucky Ones Movie Review Film Critic Michael Phillips Reviews The Lucky Ones The Lucky Ones Starring Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins, Michael Pena
The Lucky Ones Movie Production Notes, Synopsis, About the Movie, About the Cast