Title: Just My Luck
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Director: Donald Petrie
Screenwriters: I. Marlene King, Amy Harris
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Chris Pine, Samaire Armstrong
Only a couple of weeks ago, I saw Lindsay Lohan as part of an ensemble cast in Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, holding the screen with the likes of Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline and John C. Reilly. It was a wonderful role and a lovely performance, good-natured and real. Watching it, I almost managed to forget how Lohan earned her A-list stripes: with stuff like Just My Luck, which takes the vaguely supernatural conceit of films like Intacto and The Cooler and drains it of all fascination, putting it in service of one of the more dim-witted romantic comedies I’ve had to sit through in recent months.
The idea — which the movie is, of course, more interested in exploiting than exploring — is that “luck” is a commodity to be gained and lost, given and taken, so that by implication “chance” has nothing to do with it: if you have “luck,” good things will come; if you don’t, you’re, as the script makes sure to point out, shit out of luck. And so we have Ashley (Lohan), an up-and-coming publicist who couldn’t get things to stop going her way if she tried: the sky clears up when she steps outside, she steps in twenty dollar bills wherever she turns, and the dry cleaner delivers Sarah Jessica Parker’s Dolce dress to her house by mistake. On the other side of town we have Jake (Chris Pine), a hapless would-be band manager who can’t bend down without ripping his pants, can’t pick up a five dollar bill without it being covered in dog poop (yes, there is a dog poop joke within 5 minutes of the hilariously expository opening credits), and suddenly has one week — one week — to find the big break for the band he dragged over from England.
They randomly kiss at a party and, well, you can guess where we go from there. I have no problem at all with the fairy tale conceit — this sort of thing has worked before, and it’ll work again. But, good lord, why must it be so stupid? Why must Ashley and her idiot friends decide that the best way to retrieve her lost luck is to have her go around spontaneously making out with men, some of them on their wedding day? Why do the characters vacillate between totally buying into the goofy “luck” stuff and then turning around and delivering lectures about it all being merely chance, and Ashley should really start worrying about more important things? I realize it’s fantasy, but surely there are intelligent ways to approach fantasy; all Just My Luck can come up with is incessantly repeating a gag involving — wait for it — scratch-and-win lottery tickets.
I was about to say that there isn’t a single interesting line of dialogue in the entire thing, but that’s not so: there’s precisely one, an unexpected bit of randomness involving the phrase “a stranger’s bacon” in French. More often, there’s no room for dialogue at all, since the movie barely pauses before leaping from one breathless complication to the next. After Ashley is repeatedly arrested, punched in the face by a large black woman, and forced to beg for food at a New York diner, an overflowing washing machine seems like excess.
I kind of liked Chris Pine, who passes muster as both a hopeless, good-natured loser and a promising, good-natured winner, and Faizon Love gets some laughs as the “filthy rich” record executive who winds up signing Jake’s band. Lohan preens for the first third of the film and then runs around frantically for the rest of it, making me think fondly of A Prairie Home Companion. That film clearly demonstrates Lohan’s interest in bigger and better things. I like her enough to earnestly hope that Just My Luck is a) a cash-in, and b) her last one.