(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 7 July, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article560293.ece)
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Blythe Danner
Director: Scott Hicks
Rating: 2.5 stars
I know no one says “wench” anymore. But The Lucky One is one of those films that make you suspend all sense of reality, just to get through them without rolling your eyes. We know the story – boy comes to small town, meets girl with a gazillion problems, he rescues her and tells her she rescued him, there’s a misunderstanding, and it gets sorted. Meanwhile, everybody cries. Yes, everybody, including the tough guy. Kids or dogs or both are thrown in to make the film cuter. If the boy and girl get together in the end, the film is good. If they decide to separate, the film is great.
You can’t go wrong with an escapist script like this. Because everyone wants to believe in fate, and destiny, and their determination to bring love home. The cynics want to believe it most. And you can’t get more cynical than a soldier who’s completed three tours of duty in Iraq and a mum who’s raising her child alone, with only her grandmother and dogs for company.
The best thing about the film is Zac Efron, who plays Logan Thibault, a soldier who’s returned to America with his limbs, digits and pretty face intact. Efron is one of the few good-looking lead men who can also act; better, he can convince us that he’s not particularly aware of his own good looks. While the actor himself probably spent a good chunk of his life fending off women and running from their overtures, he’s able to portray a man who stares wistfully after one woman, and longs to have her in his life.
Taylor Schilling, who plays Beth Green, the single mum, holds her own in a role that has earlier belonged to the likes of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. She isn’t one of those bold women. She’s terrified of losing her child to the town bully (Jay R. Ferguson) whom she was once married to. She’s nervous around the powerful family he belongs to. She aches for a life that she is in control of, but can’t make the decision to leave it all behind and start afresh, because this is all she has of her past – because this is her home, and in those parts, home means a lot. Now, don’t ask what the all-knowing grandmother (Blythe Danner) was doing when she went and made the biggest mistake of her life.
If you can look beyond the implausibility of the events that bind the story together, there are themes that strike the right chords. What is it like to be The Lucky One? To be the only one left standing again and again? To witness disaster and be spared? Can you call yourself lucky when you have to feel guilty for being alive? Can you call yourself unlucky in the face of the weeping relatives your friends have left behind? Can you defend yourself when people seem to be accusing you of being lucky?
And then there’s the theme of loneliness. What does it feel like to have a man around the house, when the only other man you’ve had in your life is someone you’re too scared to stand up to even after you’ve divorced him? When you already have a home and family, are you allowed to fall in love again? If you give up your love for the sake of protecting what you have, will you regret it when you’re eventually alone?
The film is a simple enough love story, and its complexities are what you make of them.
The Verdict: The Lucky One is a good way to spend an afternoon or evening if you want to be reassured that there is a larger force conquering all odds.