Friday, February 20, 2009

Kathleen Ponders: Who Are "The Lucky Ones"?

With all the Oscar buzz, along with the discussions we've had lately in the convertible about how many of the nominees we've seen and whether we're even interested, I've been thinking about storytelling in movies. It occurs to me that some of the best storytelling can be found in independent films, and I'm wondering why that is.

Here's one we rented recently and really enjoyed. "The Lucky Ones" features a fine cast and a good relationship story. It's a simple story--one that's been told time and again--but it's one that hits home for me, and I think our Topdowners (I liked that term, MichelleB!) would enjoy it.

Three soldiers just home from Iraq meet at a New York airport gate where flight schedule screens show a flood of cancellations. They've never met, have little except a general direction in common, but they end up renting a car together. Cheever (Tim Robbins) is headed for St. Louis with a discharge after a porta-potty fell on his back. Colee (Rachel McAdams), still limping from a leg wound, plans to use her 30 days to deliver a guitar to a dead soldier's family in Vegas. TK (Michael Peña) is going to Vegas, too. His wound has left him impotent, and he's looking for a way to get his groove back so his girlfriend back home won't have to go looking for woodier pastures. There's a great deal of humor here, and it's played naturally. The characters feel like real people dealing with stranger-than-fiction circumstances. Different personalities who come to care about each other in a way that only people who have shared one of life's most bizarre circumstances can. (Having lots of family and friends who've been there, I can still only guess.)

This is a road picture, and these characters are riding with baggage, trying very hard to keep the top up, or screwed on in the face of one storm after another. It's the friends-become-family, us-against-the world theme with some twists. The characters and the actors make this movie. It's the kind of story fans of relationship stories love. That would be me. But it was also a movie that kept hubby watching beginning to end. It had both of us laughing. Michael Peña is a dead ringer for a nephew whom we lost a year ago, but the character he plays--a guy who's Army all the way--reminds us of lots of family members. (Lots of military on both sides.) Colee is a wonderful character--the school of hard knocks hasn't killed her optimism. Cheever is the family man who just wants to get back to his life. Early on he discovers that, in his absence, life has moved on.

I've always liked Tim Robbins, and I expected more of an anti-war feel in this movie simply because I'm familiar with his political views. Not so. This movie is not about politics. It's about people. Even though it's absolutely contemporary, with a few adjustments it could be about soldiers returning home from any war. It won't be the "Coming Home" for our time, but it's head and shoulders above so many movies we've seen lately. I recommend it.

I find a lot to like among the Indies--the small budget films, many of them, like this one, available in theaters only in limited release. When I see good actors heading up the cast in an independent film, I'm there. So many big name actors say they look to the Indies for the best scripts, the best parts. They do the Indies for love and the big budget studio pictures for money. But the good Indies are easy to miss unless they break out, like "Slumdog Millionaire." It's mostly word of mouth.

Have you seen any good Indies lately? Do tell.

19 comments:

lois greiman said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Kathy. Always looking for good movies. I'm hearing good thing about a film called Bella, but I haven't seen it yet.

lois greiman said...
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Helen Brenna said...

I love Indie films. This one sounds like a good one, Kathy. I'm putting it of my list.

I'm not sure if it was an indie flick or not, but I just watched The Savages, with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. About a couple of adult children reconnecting over having to care for their ailing father. It was well done. And the acting, needless to say, wonderful.

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, has anyone seen Waitress with Keri Russell? I absolutely adored that quirky dramedy.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I really liked The Savages, too! You can't go wrong with Linney and PSHoffman, and the story hits home. When you have actors like that, you have to give them a meaty script.

Betina Krahn said...

Helen, "Waitress" sucked me in with the charm and scared me silly with the threat of impending violence. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen for portraying the fear of domentic violence that some women live with daily. Didn't expect that.

Kathy, this sounds shilarlike a great movie. I hope it somes to a movie house nearby. . . I'll put it on my list, too! Thanks!

Helen Brenna said...

Betina, you called it perfectly with your description of Waitress. It was amazing how they countered the threat of violence with the humor. The sad thing about that movie is that the woman who wrote it died - was she murdered? - right before this was chosen as a Sundance film. I'm sure we would've seen some more great films from her had she lived.

Michele Hauf said...

I usually like a good Indie every once in a while but haven't seen any lately. I'm adding Waitress to my list! Did anyone ever see ONCE? Kind of a subtle Irish musical about love? I think I have to see that one.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I thought I'd seen "Waitress" but just watched the trailer on Blockbuster online (or you can Google) and I haven't. It's in my queue now. It looks terrific!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Betina, you'll have to rent "The Lucky Ones." It was a "limited release" in theaters. You'll enjoy it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

About the "Waitress" trailer (hey, Andy Griffith is in it! I was just wondering about him recently.)...reminds me of another recent rental:

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005), Woody Harrelson and Julianne Moore. Check out the trailer for this one, too. It's set in the 50's, based on the true story of a woman who basically supported her family by entering contests back when you entered jingles and testimonials and like that. It took some talent. They have a whole bunch of kids, and hubby is a drunk. But he's an interesting character, too. The woman (story was written by her daughter) is a survivor, an optimist, a fascinating character. Those of us who were kids back then will have known this woman intimately. She's the woman who passed the baton to us and said, "Go as far as you can."

Michele Hauf said...

I loved the Prize Winner movie! Watched that on the airplane on the way home from Paris. ;-) Could you imagine doing something like that to support your family? Fun! And yeah, the hubby was a jerk.

Cindy Gerard said...

Thank for the great movie recs, ladies. I love relationship stories.

Keri Ford said...

These movies sound great! Over Valentines weekend, Hubs and I had a movie weekend. We must have watched 6 movies between going to the movies, cleaning out things we'd saved in Tivo and also what we happened to have caught coming on tv.

Now I can't half remember what was what! I'll have to keep my eye out on these.

Helen Brenna said...

Oh, Michele, I loved Once!! Even bought the soundtrack.

Helen Brenna said...

I should've added that the movie Once was filmed in something like three days with some ridiculously low budget. Feels a bit like a documentary, but it's a love story. The music was great.

Kathleen said...

I will have to see if I can rent this one.
And I have not seen the Waitress either, so I will put that on my list of movies to get.
If you want to see a good movie about a road trip, you should see Boys on the Side.
This was about 3 woman who travel across country to California, who are perfect strangers to one another and end up becoming the best of friends.
Woopie Goldbery, Drew Barrymore and Mary Lousie Parker star. I think it was better than evern Themla and Lousie.
Just a suggestion.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I agree, Kathleen, Boys On the Side is a great road trip flick! And what a terrific title.

Betina Krahn said...

Michele, I saw "Once" and really liked it. The song that won the Oscar was very good, but didn't "capture" me at first. But as time went on, it seeped into my psyche and I adore it now. Truly deserved an Oscar! (Though in truth I thought Amy Adams's song from "Enchanted" deserved one too, in a tie.)

The movie didn't quite follow the "romance" formula (HEA). . . but it WAS truly a romantic flick and so very real. You just had the feeling of evesdropping on these people's lives. They were so totally genuine. Could they possibly be actors?