The Lucky Ones

Neil Burger

BY Robert BellPublished Sep 25, 2008

Utterly riddled with the form of contrivances that one can only hope were intended to subvert expectations rather than cater to them — the latter of which is unfortunately the grim reality — The Lucky Ones middles along with an almost patronizing obviousness that only remains tolerable due to some magnetic performances from Rachel McAdams and Tim Robbins.

They successfully manage to make a film, which on a structural level would normally be dismissed as trite crap, into something strangely entertaining and occasionally moving, even if that emotion is entirely manufactured.

The Lucky Ones could be described as a tonal and thematic hybrid of Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Stop-Loss, which, given their vast differences, helps shed some light on some of the inherent problems at the forefront. Like Stop-Loss, the film starts in a war zone where TK (Michael Pena) takes some shrapnel to his privates and as a result, earns a 30-day leave. On the plane home, he meets Colee (Rachel McAdams), an enthusiastic but naïve young woman who is nursing the wounds of losing a love in the war, as well as Cheever (Tim Robbins), a man whose military career has ended, who looks forward to reuniting with his wife and son.

When a blackout at J.F.K. airport leaves the trio stranded, they decide to pool their resources and rent a van for a cross-country journey, which includes charitable hookers, unwelcome threesomes, tornado erections and contrivances aplenty.

Subject matter involving the feelings of despondency and displacement these soldiers cope with in a homeland that feels obligated to perform niceties and offer a "thank you” despite not having the capacity or interest to connect with them outside of fetishizing them as sexual objects of power and protection is at least thoughtful and interesting.

However, conveniences such as Cheever’s need for $20,000 right around the time that Colee finds out that her boyfriend’s guitar is worth about the same amount almost cancels out these insights.

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