DVD Release Date:  September 18, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: May 4, 2007
Rating: PG-13 (for some language and sexual humor)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 122 min.
Director: Curtis Hanson
Actors: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Debra Messing, Horatio Sanz, Robert Downey Jr., Charles Martin Smith, Phyllis Somerville

Drew Barrymore graces the cover of the latest People magazine highlighting the world’s “most beautiful” people. Also among the most beautiful, according to the magazine: Eric Bana, Barrymore’s co-star in Lucky You, the new film from director Curtis Hanson (In Her Shoes, Wonder Boys, L.A. Confidential).

With such beautiful people in front of the camera, and an adept director behind it, the resulting film has all the ingredients to be a knockout. It’s not, but it’s also not half bad—a mish-mash romance, sports film, and father-son story that takes a while to play its best hand.

Bana is Huck Cheever, a card-playing hustler who learned his tricks from his father, L.C. (Robert Duvall). The two have a strained relationship. Huck can’t beat his father at the card table, and his life is headed down the same road as daddy’s—with human relationships playing second-fiddle to an all-consuming drive to compete at the casino. As far as personal relationships go, he’s “hustle: 10, commitment: 0,” according to Huck’s longtime friend, Suzanne (Debra Messing), who warns her sister, Billie (Barrymore), about the gambler.

Huck has his eye on Billie, but he’s also broke and desperate to find a way into the World Series of Poker. Is she simply his ticket to the entry fee for the competition, Billie wonders, or is he ready for stability and commitment?

Huck’s problems stem from a broken bond with his father, who can’t convince Huck to accept his charity, or his advice. “He taught me to play [cards],” Huck confides in Billie. “I could never beat him, and he never let me win.”

Although L.C.’s competitiveness looms over his relationship with Huck, it’s L.C.’s broken marriage that most haunts the son. “Everybody’s trying just not to be lonely,” Billie tells Huck, but her woman’s intuition and penchant for quoting Dr. Laura aren’t enough to conquer Huck’s selfishness. Still, these traits do manage to awaken a longing within Huck for something that’s missing in his life. Can Billie fill the void?

Christian viewers will be disappointed in the film’s lack of discussion about, or even reference to, God, but the dialogue raises some interesting points of comparison between Huck’s ideals, and biblical truth. Just as Christians are fond of saying that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross”—meaning that everyone comes to God in the same condition, as sinners—Huck tells Billie that “everyone is equal at the [poker] table.”

“But in order for you to win, someone else has to lose,” Billie responds. Her gentle prodding and unwillingness to help Huck cheat in order to win cause Huck to see that there’s more to life than looking for “tells”—those things that give away a poker player’s hand—while his father’s admission of his own “blind spots” further opens Huck’s eyes, helping him to recognize his vulnerabilities.

Hanson and screenwriter Eric Roth spend a lot of time on scenes of Huck and L.C. at the poker table, at the expense of the development of Huck’s and Billie’s relationship. Although sweet, the relationship is one-sided; Huck’s potential gains are much clearer than Billie’s. We’re not sure what Billie sees in Huck.

The more interesting screen relationship is between Huck and his father. Duvall plays L.C. with sly affection for the prideful son who can’t get out from under his father’s long shadow. It’s another outstanding Duvall performance, with shadings that elevate a stock role into something quite memorable, culminating with a reminiscence that leads to an extension of forgiveness and charity.

It’s a surprisingly moving ending to an uneven, but ultimately touching film. Lucky You may star two beautiful people, but its performance from the older, wiser Duvall is the most beautiful by far.

AUDIENCE: Older teens and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: A few profanities.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking.
  • Sex/Nudity: Some kissing; two people sleep together shortly after meeting, but we only see them waking up next to each other the morning after.
  • Violence: A man sitting in a pool chair is picked up and thrown into a pool with no water.
  • Gambling/Stealing: Lots of it, without discussion of the morality of gambling, although a few parallels are drawn between the protagonist’s shabby treatment of others and his approach to playing cards; also, the ease of cheating is discussed, with an admirable response from one of the participants; a man steals to fund his gambling habit; a man gets breast implants as part of a bet; another character runs a fake phone-counseling operation.