The fact that this much-delayed gambling-based love story was originally supposed to be released nine months ago says much. Movies that have their release dates put back, the general rule goes, are never much cop – but when the film in question was intended to be a comeback vehicle for not just one, but three erstwhile next big things, you know that somewhere in Hollywood, the gods of faltering careers are having a field day.
Director Curtis Hanson is likely forever to be remembered for his film noir masterpiece LA Confidential, already acknowledged as both a modern classic and one of the finest Hollywood films of the 1990s. He may have followed up with the underrated Wonder Boys and surprisingly decent Eminem vehicle 8 Mile, but the sheer sentimentality of 2005’s In Her Shoes, combined with mis-marketing, ensured a commercial flop.
Combined with that, Lucky You’s difficult passage to the screen has not only made former golden boy Hanson seem slightly less adept than everyone thought, but has also ensured that he’s missed out on the chance to direct the LA Confidential sequel White Jazz, set for a 2009 release with George Clooney in the lead, and so almost certain to be a hit.
Then there’s Drew Barrymore, an actress who’s had more career revivals than most, but who hasn’t made a genuinely decent film since 2002’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. With the faltering of her Charlie’s Angels franchise with the dire 2003 sequel, she’s been stuck as the love interest in several less than decent romantic comedies for the last few years. Although she is again playing the love interest in Lucky You, this was undoubtedly meant to be her “look at me, I can act!” flick, with the film – on paper, at least – offering plenty of scope for emotion and dramatics.
Finally, there’s Eric Bana. Yes, he was the best thing in Troy and very good in Munich, but his reputation still hasn’t quite recovered from the critical mauling of 2003’s Hulk, and it’s been two years since we last saw him on the big screen. Having rightly been lauded as a brilliant new talent after his powerhouse performance in 2000’s low-budget Australian indie flick Chopper – with comparisons to the young Robert De Niro flying left, right and centre – he has yet to fully make the leap to the Hollywood A-list.
This was doubtless meant to show Bana’s sensitive side after a series of films in which he’s played a bit of a hard man, but a simple romance would have been too easy. Instead, by focussing on his character’s gambling problem, the most obvious comparison is the Oscar-winning Leaving Las Vegas, in which an alcoholic Nic Cage gradually drank himself to death, turning in one of the finest performances of his career in the process. The downside is that gambling’s rarely fatal, and it’s an entirely solitary pursuit, leaving Barrymore with little to do, and the entire film resting on Bana’s shoulders. And while there’s no doubt that he’s a good enough actor to carry a film, sadly his character’s simply not quite interesting enough.
Glossy and stylish like most of Curtis Hanson’s movies, there’s still a fair amount to like about Lucky You, but nothing to rave about. This, with such talents involved – the masterly Robert Duvall also makes an appearance – is always going to be a disappointment. Go in expecting nothing much, and you might be pleasantly surprised.