Runs Fri., June 13–Thurs., June 26 at Northwest Film Forum. Rated R. 96 minutes.
Something about movies set in the music world—rockers, journalists, groupies, etc.—immediately strikes a nostalgic tone. Back when the hormones and serotonin flowed freely, our favorite tunes of youth were wired into our synapses forever. That’s why it’s such a shock to hear a favorite old song, be it “Creep” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and wonder, Holy shit, how did I get so old?!? That’s the dilemma for Seattle music writer Ellie (Toni Collette), 40-ish and sleeping with men too young for her, clinging to print in the Internet age, keeping her CDs when the rest of the world has moved on to Spotify and the cloud.
Ellie’s old boyfriend, presumed a suicide in Snoqualmie Falls, wears a very Cobainesque halo. He’s been gone 10 years, which places Ellie in an indeterminate post-grunge limbo. The music may have died; music journalism is certainly dying (cue an old stack of The Rocket Ellie uses for research); and her love life is nearly DOA. Directed by local filmmaker Megan Griffiths (The Off Hours, Eden), Lucky Them is a lightweight, inoffensive formula picture that borrows Seattle as a scenic backdrop; you could say the same about Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle, only that film brought a lot more writing talent to our city. Here, the writer is Connecticut journalist/actress Emily Wachtel, and she’ll have to write a few dozen more screenplays before filling even one of Ephron’s pumps. This one limps along like it’s got several pages missing, or was stapled in the wrong order.
Ellie goes in search of her mythic lost Matthew, aided by a dorky dilettante of a documentary filmmaker (Thomas Haden Church) and urged by her gruff editor (Oliver Platt), on a retrospective quest that’s clearly intended to help her move on, as they say. That Ellie needs to let go of the past and the whole bathroom-sex-with-rockers thing is nicely crystalized in a reaction shot from the ever-redoubtable Collette. Ellie and her new boy toy (Ryan Eggold) are discussing Matthew’s music. I was a huge fan, he tells her, in eighth grade. The camera cuts to Collette, whose eyes reel like the spinning numbers on an adding machine. If the filmmaker, Charlie, is ridiculously uncool (admitting “I hate music”), at least he’s age-appropriate. And he’s got money. Ellie may not say as much, but a franker assessment of where her life is heading is what a better writer—meaning Wachtel or her surrogate—needed to tease out of this story. Failing that, Griffiths does an adequate job with the script handed her.