Thomas Haden Church and Toni Collette search for a supposedly dead rock star in 'Lucky Them.' (IFC Films)
There is one long moment in “Lucky Them” in which star Toni Collette lets loose, and it’s proof positive that she’s one of the best at her craft alive.
In the course of maybe 10-15 seconds, she reacts to an encounter with rage, disgust, sadness, bewilderment and frustration, and it all plays and replays out across her face while her body seems to be taking invisible punches.
It’s remarkable stuff. Unfortunately, the rest of “Lucky Them” isn’t all that remarkable, although it drifts by on an indie-quirky groove that’s painless enough, thanks mostly to Thomas Haden Church playing a Thomas Haden Church-like eccentric.
But the script here dodges every which way, leaving Collette and Church to carry the movie with characters that don’t make a whole lot of sense.
Collette plays Ellie Klug, a rock journalist for a Seattle music magazine (are there such people these days?). She has apparently become somewhat old and irrelevant, so the mag’s publisher (Oliver Platt) orders her to do a story on the legendary musician who was her boyfriend a decade earlier. The problem? The boyfriend disappeared one night and is thought to have committed suicide.
So Ellie sets out to find the missing rock star even though she has no investigative skills. This obviously didn’t seem like enough to the screenwriters, so they also give Ellie an on again-off again fling with a cute street musician (Ryan Eggold) and, most importantly, a millionaire sidekick/admirer named Charlie (Church).
Charlie is one of the more unique storytelling devices in recent memory in that he has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on in the movie. He and Ellie dated briefly long ago, they happen to bump into one another one night and presto, he’s her convenient goofy sidekick.
The thing is, as strained as Charlie’s inclusion in the movie is, it’s also somewhat essential. He brings all the fun. Otherwise, Ellie is just a sad, empty soul, hanging out with much younger people, clinging to her glory days.
Her fascination with her legendary lost boyfriend might make a bit more sense if there was some music to back up the legend. The story of their relationship is fairly bare bones and the hunt for the guy is far from nail-biting stuff.
So while this dull, dismal story is going on, Charlie buys an RV, begins making a documentary film, falls in love with an addle-brained prostitute, buys an endangered species and wears spy glasses, all while saying inappropriate things. Ha-ha, that Charlie.
Sorry, Charlie only holds so many ha-has, and virtually all of them are irrelevant to this film. And Collette, as amazing as she can be when given something to work with, can’t lift this limp story through sheer will. “Lucky Them” isn’t that lucky, and honestly it doesn’t deserve to be.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and drug use
Running time: 97 minutes