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Posts Tagged ‘John Carroll Lynch’

Harry Dean Stanton

“LUCKY” My rating: B+ 

88 minutes | No MPAA rating

Late in the sublime “Lucky” our title character, an ancient desert-dwelling reprobate played by Harry Dean Stanton, informs the customers of his favorite watering hole that, in his opinion, all we have waiting for us is nothingness.

“What do we do with that piece of news?” someone asks.

Exactly. What do you do, how do you live your life, knowing  your time on Earth is limited and that there are no guarantees of a hereafter?

If that sounds heavy…well, it is and it isn’t.

“Lucky” is a deadpan comedy about small town eccentricity that morphs into a meditation on mortality.  It’s a classic case of laugh-sob-laugh storytelling.

The screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja is so solid that it would be a terrific vehicle for any mature actor. That the role of Lucky went to Harry Dean Stanton, who died in September at the age of 91, is one of those made-in-heaven movie miracles.

The script plays perfectly to Stanton’s physicality (sunken eyes, hopeless hair, wraith-like figure) and his tough-crusty demeanor.  How lovely… in an acting career that goes back a half century with films like “Alien,” “Repo Man” and “Paris, Texas,” Stanton’s last big role features what may be his greatest performance.

Add to this the wondrous directing debut of John Carroll Lynch, a much-in-demand character actor (he played Frances McDormand’s stamp-designing husband in “Fargo”), and you have a low-keyed, rib-tickling, heart-tugging wonder.

Lucky — who never married — lives alone on the outskirts of a small town (the setting looks like New Mexico or Arizona). He is a creature of habit.

That means getting up and doing yoga exercises in his underwear, pausing to take a few long drag on a cigarette.  Lucky’s closet contains  blue jeans and identical well-worn red plaid shirts. His diet appears limited to milk, caffeine and Bloody Marys (though he never eats the celery).

He’s got no car, so he walks into town, making the rounds of the diner, Post Office and shops before settling onto his stool at a bar where everybody knows everybody else’s name. He makes a point of baiting the chatty owner (the great Beth Grant), her pretty-boy squeeze (James Darren) and the philosophical bartender (Hugo Armstrong).

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Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

“THE FOUNDER”  My rating: B- 

115  minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“The Founder” is like a Big Mac concealing a piece of broken glass.

John Lee Hancock’s film about the creation of the world’s most successful fast food chain starts out as a playful story of capitalist innovation and gung-ho drive.

But it leaves us thinking that nobody rises to the top of the corporate heap without screwing over a good many people along the way.

We first meet Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) delivering his pitch directly into the camera.  Like most good salesmen he believes success is less dependent upon the peddled product (in this case industrial-strength milkshake makers) than on the personality and persuasion of the seller.

Except it isn’t working. Kroc spends his weary days traipsing across the Midwest of the mid-1950s, visiting Ma and Pa drive-in restaurants whose owners can’t see the point in a machine that makes six shakes at once.

But a side trip to San Bernardino, CA and the drive-in run by the McDonald brothers — Mac (John Carroll Lymch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) — is an eye opener.

Mac and Dick have created an operation capable of delivering an order of burger, fries and drink in just 30 seconds.

Everything is streamlined in a “symphony of efficiency.”

The McDonalds have instituted a kitchen assembly line that would make Henry Ford proud. There’s no dining room. No utensils or plates. Everything is wrapped in disposable paper. No girl on roller skates to deliver the food to your car (customers have to shlep up to the order window).

But the food is great and business is hopping.

Ray Kroc has seen the future.

 

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