★ / ★★★★
Natasha Kermani’s “Lucky” is more interested in delivering a message than it is about creating a movie that just so happens to have a message. Specifically, its goal is to make a statement about the every day violence—overt and subtle—that women experience, whether it be at home, at work, or out in public: that the female gender, in general, tend to compartmentalize and go at it alone even when it is apparent that they are in need of help or a friend who can listen and empathize. This is told through the guise of what appears to be a standard slasher film.
I say “appears” because the screenplay, written by Brea Grant (who also stars as our protagonist named May), has a self-awareness about it. For instance, when May, having noticed a masked man standing in the garden and looking through the glass door in the middle of the night, jolts her husband awake, groggy Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) claims that it is simply the person who stops by every night to try and kill them—so calmly, so casually, as if it were the norm. Like washing the dishes or taking out the trash. The first act does a terrific job in snagging our attention. But May appears to have no memory of this masked man. What exactly is going on in this household?
Because the premise is so curious, we watch a little closer. For instance, we learn to hang onto every line of dialogue and how it is delivered. We readily spot strange images like cookies decorated with sad faces in an event that is supposed to be happy or celebratory or a reflection on mirror not quite matching the present action. Is the tone or mood supposed to be dream-like? There are even times when it feels as though satirical elements are present.
Herein lies the problem: Because we grow sensitive to the most minute details, we note the amateurish acting, the awkward pauses between exchanges, the lack of polish in how words are strung together. Look at the physical confrontations between May and The Man (Hunter C. Smith), how they tend to look overly choreographed—toxic when the editing takes a backseat. Instead of delivering horrifying or thrilling encounter, the dance leans toward comedy. Blood that spurts out of a character’s neck has the viscosity of vomit. Meaty chunks don’t leak out of veins or arteries.
And what about common sense? Time and again May is able to overpower The Man, but she never bothers to take his mask off, especially when the police has made a habit of asking, “Can you describe how he looks like?” She also knows that when The Man has been incapacitated, his body disappears. And so, for the love of god, why is our heroine compelled to look away from the body within two seconds of disabling him? The answer is so that the formula can be repeated again and for the movie’s running time to stretch all the way to eighty minutes. Need I go on?
You cannot introduce a level of self-awareness while also playing it dumb and lazy.
These could have been overcome, quite handily, had the screenplay offered new and compelling ideas in a breathless manner while at the same time managing to explore and connect the dots already introduced. Having a message is terrific. But everything else around it must be equally strong, if not stronger, because these tend to prop up or elevate whatever is being communicated. If the audience is distracted by the most elementary shortcomings, how can the message—however important, relevant, or urgent—be taken seriously?