Megan Griffiths’ made-in-Seattle story of love and friendship, Lucky Them, has that rare gift: It leaves its audiences warm and happy, as the best romantic comedies do. Filmmaker Griffiths’ previous effort, Eden, was a well-crafted, harrowing tale of sex trafficking. Here, she steps completely in the opposite direction, crafting a low-key charmer that shows off her versatility as a storyteller. And it shows off our city, too; cinematographer Ben Kutchins creates, in the lollipop nighttime neon of Capitol Hill, a post-grunge wonderland.
Ellie (Toni Collette) doesn’t notice the colors as she strides along those sidewalks; her thoughts are elsewhere. She’s missing deadlines at work (she’s a music journalist, for a fictional Seattle publication that resembles the late Rocket), and things aren’t much better on the romantic front. Her long-suffering editor (Oliver Platt) offers her one last chance: Write a story about her long-ago ex, Matthew Smith, a local music legend who disappeared from public life. Having little choice, Ellie accepts the assignment and soon acquires a sidekick in the form of Charlie (Thomas Haden Church), a would-be documentarian who wants to film her quest.
Much of the movie, written by Emily Wachtel and Huck Botko, unfolds as a road trip for Ellie and Charlie (the mysterious Matthew is a hard man to find), and Collette and Church make delightful company behind the wheel of a rented RV. The two quickly find a breezy chemistry: Ellie, sardonic and stressed-out; Charlie, cheerfully lunkheaded (just the way he says “Rolling!,” from behind the camera, is hilariously clueless). They talk about music, or about nothing at all. Slowly, we watch them becoming friends.
Is every detail of Lucky Them plausible? Nope, but it creates such goodwill that you won’t mind a bit. You leave remembering a crucial scene, late in the film, as Collette manages to convey sadness, laughter and resignation all in one close-up; or a bittersweet conversation from which the film’s title springs. Ultimately, it’s an actors showcase, a gently funny reminder that love is a process of trial and error.
Cast: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt, Nina Arianda, Ryan Eggold, Ahna O’Reilly.
Director: Megan Griffiths.
Screenwriters: Huck Botko, Emily Wachtel.
An IFC Films release. Running time: 96 minutes. Language, some sexual content and drug use. In Miami-Dade only: Tower.