Lucky Days (2008)—co-directed by siblings Angelica and Tony Torn (children of Rip Torn)—has a strong local connection. Not only does Tony Torn live in Marshall, but featured player Will Patton lives in Asheville. This gives Lucky Days a local interest, but it has more going for it than that—especially as a showcase for Angelica Torn and for a final glimpse into Coney Island before its “gentrification” by developers. It’s also a pretty good movie.
The film is given a certain boost by its more recognizable names. Paul Newman served as a producer (given the title of “producer emeritus”) and familiar faces like Rip Torn and Anne Jackson show up in addition to Will Patton. However, this is almost incidental. (Not that I blame the Torns for calling on these people—I certainly would have had I been in that position.) Really, this is a film about a time and a place and a particular kind of society—and, as noted, it’s a showcase for Angelica Torn. And it’s a very good one for her.
The story is simple enough. Angelica Torn plays a put-upon woman who prides herself on her ability to “take it.” In her case, “taking it” means being undervalued by her family, abused by her faithless boyfriend (Federico Castelluccio), openly detested by his mother (Anne Jackson), and looking forward to a much-delayed marriage that can only be a bad idea. This starts to change when an old childhood quasi-boyfriend (Luke Zarzecki) appears on the scene. The film charts her slow awakening to how unhappy her life really is and how ill-used she’s been. It’s a tough role, but Torn pulls it off.
For an indie film, it’s also a surprisingly good-looking production. The images are often striking and the colors are deeply saturated, which is a real plus when dealing with the neon world of Coney Island. Some of the scenes are beautiful. A moonlight swim—simply achieved on a technical level, but looking expensive—is gloriously romantic without being Hollywooded-out in the bargain. Low-budget filmmakers really need to see just how much this movie accomplishes on very little.