Sunday, September 21, 2008

With very few flaws these 3 are still quite lucky

Lionsgate Films' The Lucky Ones

A timely drama about life in America today, The Lucky Ones stars Rachel McAdams, Tim Robbins and Michael Pena as three soldiers on leave trying to make sense of their lives during an unexpected road trip across the United States. A humorous, moving portrayal about the challenges of coming home.

After suffering an injury during a routine patrol, hardened sergeant TK Poole (Michael Pena) is granted a one-month leave to visit his fiancé. But when an unexpected blackout cancels all flights out of New York, TK agrees to share a ride to Pittsburgh with two similarly stranded servicemen: Cheever (Tim Robbins), an older family man who longs to return to his wife in St. Louis, and Colee (Rachel McAdams), a naive private who's pinned her hopes on connecting with a dead fellow soldier's family. What begins as a short trip unexpectedly evolves into a longer journey. Forced to grapple with old relationships, broken hopes and a country divided over the war, TK, Cheever and Colee discover that home is not quite what they remembered, and that the unlikely companionship they've found might be what matters the most.

Technically speaking, Sergeant Fred Cheaver (Tim Robbins), Theodore "T.K." Poole (Michael Pena) and Private Colee Dunn (Rachel McAdams) are indeed lucky: Though all were injured during their separate tours of duty, they made it out of Iraq alive. Colee, who's returning to the U.S. on a 30 day leave, was wounded in the leg by an IED, her life saved by a fellow solider named Randy. Fred, a reservist going home for good, had three vertebrae crushed when a Porta John slipped off a forklift and landed on his back. And T.K., who, like Colee, is also due to return to Iraq in a month, was hit in the groin by a piece of shrapnel that's rendered him temporarily (he hopes) impotent. After meeting one another on their New York-bound flight, they bond over the realization that all connecting flights have been cancelled and agree to share the last available rental car. Fred is bound for St. Louis, where he lives with his wife (Molly Hagan) and their teenage son (Mark L. Young), while Colee and Poole are heading for Las Vegas, where Colee plans to return Randy's old -- and possibly very valuable -- acoustic guitar to his family and T.K. plans to avail himself of the services of professional sex workers in hopes of getting everything in full working order before he reunites with his fiancee. For T.K. the inability to perform sexually is a sign of failure, and there's no room for malfunction in an extremely focused life plan that sees him rising quickly through the military ranks and eventually entering public office. But as all three come to realize, life continued on without them while they were away and even their best laid plans are bound to go awry.

While remaining neutral on the subject of the war itself, Burger and Wittenborn capture a strong sense of the dislocation many soldiers feel upon returning home, from the odd looks and cruel treatment Colee gets from a group of snotty Indiana University girls to the rote and increasingly empty sounding "No, thank you" instead of "You're welcome" that each receives once people realize who they are and where they've been. The film isn't perfect -- it's hard to accept Colee as a woman with evangelical Christian leanings who also talks knowledgably about threeways and negotiates freebees with prostitutes, and too many people are too downright mean to be entirely believable -- but the dialogue is often sharp and funny and the performances nicely pitched. A hefty 4 on my "Go See" scale.

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