x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The Lucky Ones

The Iraq war-themed Lucky Ones is a warm-hearted road movie that says much about contemporary America.

Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams in The Lucky Ones.
Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams in The Lucky Ones.

Three wounded US soldiers share a road trip across America while on leave from the war in Iraq in writer-director Neil Burger's thoughtful indie drama, which delivers more than its premise initially might suggest. Robbins plays the middle-aged veteran gearing up to retire, Peña the cocky young idealist with an embarrassing injury, and McAdams a dreamy misfit with a troubled past. Sharing a single rental car thanks to a contrived set-up reminiscent of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, this mismatched trio laugh, bicker and comfort one another as each faces up to emotional and financial turbulence at home. Along the way they share extreme weather, beautiful landscapes and comic adventures. Burger's script barely mentions the war. At a birthday party gatecrashed by the protagonists en route, a father and son briefly express both pro and anti views, but each sounds equally smug and simplistic. Some viewers will consider this refusal to make a firm statement both subtle and realistically open-ended. Others may consider it a cop-out. At its best, The Lucky Ones has all the freewheeling, character-driven charm of 1970s Hollywood, when studios made bittersweet dramas for intelligent adults. That said, Burger still cannot quite resist falling back on clichéd characters and tearjerking plot twists. But thanks largely to his light touch and excellent cast, he has made a humane and warm-hearted road movie that says much more about contemporary America than Iraq.