"...a road trip of three unlikely trip mates...."

The Lucky Ones

 An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Do not miss “The Lucky Ones.” We meet the memorable core cast of three at the outset and by film’s end we love them all. Rachel McAdams is Colee, Michael Pena is TK, Tim Robbins is Cheever, and you won’t forget any one of them for a very long time. Neil Burger, who directed and co-wrote the script, deserves great credit for never once tripping over some of the roadblocks that could have felled a lesser director. With a light hand, Burger has mixed equal parts tenderness and humor to create an immensely appealing three way friendship – and he does it without sentimentality.

            The three, each wounded, but not seriously, meet as they are returning home from Iraq. Colee is returning to her dead boyfriend’s family, TK to his girlfriend, and Cheever to his wife and son. When they land in New York, the city is just emerging from a blackout that has shut the metropolitan airports. Scrounging the last available rental car, the three take to the road. They will drop Cheever at his home in St. Louis while TK and Colee continue to Las Vegas.

            What lies ahead here is a road trip of three thoroughly unlikely trip mates who ultimately discover that their destinations have become invalid for one serious reason or another. Why will you care? Because the actors have made their characters authentic. Cheever is a quiet, serious fellow determined at first to be distant. TK is quiet in his own way but fancies himself as the possessor of a mighty set of life skills that he simply must share with his companions (“I’m a leader; I’m going to run for office.”) Colee is quiet too but bursts into the silences with outrageous solutions to the problems that bedevil her new friends. She’s a fixer.

            Whether it is a broken windshield or a reopened wound that needs to be tended, each of the three is uncomplaining and patient. As trust builds among them, their protective instincts grow - theirs toward each other, and ours toward them. Director Burger is dealing with shades of feeling, not extremes, and he does it so deftly that his portrait becomes genuinely tender. Of course, his subtle direction would not have worked if even one of the actors had been off key, but not one of them overplays a character.

            Rachel McAdams gives Colee a magical purity of spirit along with a determination to right everyone’s ship. She is an actress, it seems, who can do anything. Michael Pena’s TK is a just right combination of tough and vulnerable, and Tim Robbins as the senior Cheever manages, as he always does, to convey great feeling without even a mite of overstatement or wasted gesture.

            You most probably will laugh a lot and hurt for them in their common dilemma. Some days later I am still worrying about the fact that not one of them had any place to go.


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