Seemingly intentioned to capitalise on the worldwide craze for high stakes poker, Lucky You comes across as a cynical film, hitching a ride on someone else’s bandwagon. The only difference between this and a hundred other personal growth dramas featuring father-son conflict is that there are cards involved.
Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) is a poker player tormented by the success of his father, dual World Champion L. C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), whom he resents for running out on his family to pursue his professional poker dream. Making one bad choice after another, he is trying to raise the funds to buy a stool at the next World Series Tournament, but is continually thwarted by his own ego and temper. A chance encounter with new girl in town, bar singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), may just lead to enough personal growth that he can climb out of the hole he lives in, but will his rivalry with his father allow him to?
If it sounds a little weak, blame writer-director Curtis Hanson who most recently brought In Her Shoes and 8 Mile to our screens. His take on the world of professional gambling is dull and trite, and features a script filled with such banalities as Barrymore’s Offer being forced to opine ‘You know what I think? I think that everyone’s just trying not to be lonely’. Then there is the profound ‘You play cards the way you should lead your life. And you lead your life the way you should play cards’. Or even ‘You raised me with nothing? Sometimes nothing is enough’.
If the script isn’t failing this film, it is the over-reliance on table-top battles to imbue dramatic tension that is. One more ‘return to the dollar bets matches to recoup losses and start over’ sequence and most of the audience would be shaking their heads with disbelief. Huck climbs and then falls so often, it just doesn’t matter if it happens again, as there is never a concern he won’t make it to the big match. There are so many shots of hole cards being examined and chips being tossed, one wonders whether any of the footage has been recycled in an effort to cut production costs. Poker may be an entertaining diversion as a TV ‘sport’, but as the prime mover in a feature film it just doesn’t provide enough twists.
Bana can’t be held responsible for the problems of Lucky You, bringing a subtley to his performance that is a pleasure to watch. His face betrays the emotions criss-crossing his mind, and his body language and even his walk are spot on. Opposite Barrymore, he positively glows, she being insipid and energy-sapping in turn. Duvall gets to have some fun, which is a small pleasure amongst the (Bana aside) otherwise bland offerings.
As entertainment, Lucky You paraphrases its script… sometimes nothing is nothing.Rating: