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LUCKY YOU

SYNOPSIS:
Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) plays professional poker in Las Vegas, as did his twice world champ father, L. C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), with whom he's had a long term falling out. When Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore) arrives from Bakersfield to join her sister (Debra Messing) Huck's attention is aroused. But Billie isn't after a poker stud, and Huck's fortunes at the tables fluctuate as wildly as their relationship. Meanwhile, as the 2003 World Championships approach, Huck is desperate to raise the cash to get a seat at the table, where he will face his own dad, as well as his personal insecurities.

Review by Louise Keller:
'You play cards the way you should live your life and live the way you play cards,' Robert Duvall's poker champion L. C. Cheever tells his son. But to Eric Bana's Huck, who has never beaten his father at the table, his father's advice is not something he wants to hear. Lady Luck and love play their part, but at the heart of Curtis Hanson's Lucky You, is a film about redemption. It's about a father son relationship, when the father has taught the son everything he knows, and a son who cannot forgive his father for being who he is. It's mostly entertaining and the dynamics between father and son work well, but it's a little long as it gets bogged down in its message, and is far from Hanson's best film.

Huck is a loner who will lie, cheat and steal given the chance. Playing poker is his compulsion and obsession. 'Everyone's equal at the table,' he says. The purity of the competition is what gives him his thrill; the money is simply to keep score. When he meets Drew Barrymore's Billie, she becomes the catalyst for his redemption. She is his antithesis with her exuberant face showing every emotion; the converse of Huck's poker-face which reveals nothing. Their on-off relationship develops endearingly in the lead up to the main event - the confrontation of father/son at the ultimate World Series Poker event.

Bana nails the essence of the smooth-talking Huck who pays attention to body language and facial expressions, while Duvall has never been better as the hard-nosed poker player for whom winning has been his life. Hence it's a pity the film doesn't deliver a winning hand. The crassness of Vegas is blatantly on display with all its excesses; this is the place where fortunes turn faster than the cards. Tension builds in the lead up to the final play off, although the hands may seem repetitive to non-poker aficionados. Huck's redemption is assured, but delivered in a heavy handed way. I have no idea what Robert Downey Jnr is doing in the film, but as always, is fun to watch.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's one of those dream packages Hollywood studio execs feel safe to greenlight, with two bankable stars (Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore) and a revered veteran (Robert Duvall), the director of films like L.A. Confidential and The Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson) and the guy who wrote (among other things) Forrest Gump, The Horse Whisperer and The Insider (Eric Roth). Which only goes to show that nothing is certain in filmmaking. Lucky You, from the limp title to its limp finale, is a mis-speak for a commercial movie; its riches of weaknesses begins with the premise that poker playing can rivet our attention, through sheer authenticity of setting and play - and some real poker players. The problems continue with a romantic pairing in Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore that so lacks chemistry as to be dull.

The film is barely watchable, especially in some extended poker sequences when we don't even see the poker play, but have the soundtrack entertain us while images fade in and out of faces and players at a tournament. Whatever the intention of having the clichéd set up of an alienated father in whose shadow son struggles to find himself is botched and boring. Silly sideshows like a $10,000 dollar bet involving Huck running five miles and playing 18 rounds of gold on his own are underdeveloped and over emphasised.

Drawing on the truthfulness of sets and poker mechanics has created a false security in the filmmakers, who forgot to draw on reality itself. We wouldn't care if the old Bellagio poker room was not so accurately portrayed as long as the characters engaged us and moved us. The few moments when the screenplay explores the relationships between the characters suggest the possibilities, but these are never followed up. Better luck next time.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

LUCKY YOU (PG)
(US, 2007)

CAST: Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall, Robert Downey jnr, Debra Messing

PRODUCER: Curtis Hanson, Denise Di Novi, Carol Fenelon,

DIRECTOR: Curtis Hanson

SCRIPT: Eric Roth, Curtis Hansen

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Deming

EDITOR: William Kerr, Craig Kitson

MUSIC: Christopher Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Clay A. Griffith

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2007







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