Lucky You Is A Strange Movie That Forces Romance On Poker
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It’s generally not a good idea to mix poker with romance. Poker is a serious man’s game, where players devote their time into making sure that their feelings and emotions, even the slightest hint, cannot be felt. So when a movie like Lucky You tries to frame a love story in the context of the beloved game of poker, you can tell that the results aren’t really going to be great. But hey, they tried, I guess?
Lucky You is a movie, released in 2007, that follows the story of poker player Huck (played by Eric Bana), who is the son of a very successful champion professional poker player.
Huck meets singer Billie (played by Drew Barrymore) in Las Vegas, who’s trying to make it in that town. The two are attracted to one another, but Huck’s addiction to poker and his desperation to win the World Series of Poker in Vegas ensures that whatever relationship that was blossoming between Huck and Billie remains a little dysfunctional. (To illustrate, Huck steals money from Billie’s purse just so he can keep playing. And he loses money a lot.) Another facet of the film’s plot involves Huck’s estranged relationship with his father, which is fixed at the end of the movie.
Other notable members of the film’s cast include Robert Downey, Jr. (who still appears in a now-unusual supporting role) and Debra Messing. It seems as though everyone just went for this easy project that may have been hyped as a big deal back in 2007, but I’m also confident that they earned their keep to be in this movie. I’m sure nobody remembers any of it now, thankfully, considering all the other successful things each person has achieved in their respective careers.
Lucky You, directed by Curtis Hanson (who also directed 8 Mile), isn’t really much of anything. All the reviews that had come out when the movie did can basically be summarized as “truly nothing special,” and this one will be more of the same. It’s filler in both the burgeoning romcom genre and the niche of the poker film, and it’s a strange thing to find stars like Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall in such an uninspired movie as this. If the poker element of the film’s love story seems like an odd fit and background, that’s because it is. The actors, or Bana and Duvall at the very least because of the professionals they are, try their best to work with a script that looks like this, and the result is a middle ground of effort that is pretty much forgettable. And nobody makes any kind of career with just forgettable.
Perhaps if Lucky You was geared more towards becoming a bigger character study of the different kinds of personalities that come together at the poker table, it would have worked. I mean, yes, Huck is a weird poker player fellow among a bunch of other weird fellows, but maybe there could have been more done with the sheer variety of unusual characters that play the game. Instead the film just seemed content to work within the usual romcom movie formula, adding the weirdos in as window dressing to the weak story and an interesting effort to pull out all the stops in order to make sure that the professional poker portrayed in it is as accurate as possible. People were playing the game in the movie, but we never really got to know any of them, and that’s a shame. All of that was effective window dressing, but still window dressing nonetheless.
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There was actually so much work put into Lucky You, such as the Bob Dylan writing a song just for the movie’s soundtrack or a rather strenuous scene that involved Debra Messing playing a mermaid (that didn’t even make it to the final cut), that either one of two things are surprising. It’s either you’re surprised that it ended up being such a forgettable film despite the effort that was made, or that there was so much effort put into an idea that didn’t really look like it was going to work from the beginning. Just goes to show you that Hollywood can be a sucker for funding movies that only it’s fooled into thinking will do well, and now I kind of feel bad for all the decent-to-big names that signed up for this project.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that it’s weird to pair up poker with romance. But there could have been a lot of metaphors constructed around the mechanics and conventions of poker, and it seemed like Lucky You really wasn’t interested to make the cinematic effort to be a film that takes things a step higher.
Love in the poker scene is generally a hard sell, no doubt, but again, they could have tried. How hard would it have been for Hanson to wax philosophical about risking it all and playing the hand he was dealt for a shot at the pot of love?
Any two concepts can be tied together with the right writing, and all there was in this film was rote ideas and narratives that typically define the romcom genre. No gambles at all.
For sure, there are definitely other movies that do poker and love better, and there will be some director or writer out there who’ll play a game of poker in some casino in Las Vegas and get struck by that stray idea. If there’s anyone out there reading any of this and thinking of the same thing, I ask you to learn the lesson of Lucky You: think better of it. Maybe only do it if it’s actually a story based on real life. But it’s not really a great idea at all, and you’d do better putting together something else. Like really, either write a movie about poker, or write a movie about love. The in-between is quite difficult, and you’ll only find a small audience to entertain.
But if you must do a movie like Lucky You, then just make sure that all the ideas are in order, and the translation of real life to the silver screen is absolutely solid. Gamble well, and gamble upwards. Otherwise, audiences are going to see right through all your bluffs; either you’re going to have to fold way before your time, or you’re going to lose when the chips are down. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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