WE GOT LUCKY
Review by Mark Schwab
Yeah, this is kind of a tough one. See I became a very big fan of writer, director and actor Allen C. Gardner last year when I was lucky enough to see and review his film Being Awesome. It was one of the best indie films I had seen in quite awhile showing depth, humor and intelligence without skimping on the filmmaking. It had excellent performances, skillful editing and solid compositon. I thought it was a triumph of low budget ingenuity.
When I heard that Gardner had made a follow-up, I was very excited to see it. I now realize my expectations were very high. Maybe too high to judge the new film fairly.
We Got Lucky is based on Gardner's play of the same name. The play had a few public performances, receiving mostly mixed reviews. I have not seen the play but I feel as if the movie might have been an improvement on the stage version since this material requires a subtle intimacy to it. On stage, I fear the scenery might have been chewed to make sure the back rows could get what was going on.
The movie takes place in one apartment (actually more like the living room of one apartment) over the course of nine years. Over those years, we get to peek in on the conversations between two male roomates/protagonists Brad (writer/director Gardner) and Aaron (Matthew Gilliam) as they negotiate the minefield of relationships with various women. This is mostly talked about after the fact as we only get small glimpses of the women themselves in the movie.
And that is the toughest hurdle for We Got Lucky. Gardner puts an enormous amount of faith in himself and his co-star Gilliam to be enough on their own to carry the audience through the film. As actors, Gardner and Gilliam are up to it, but the screenplay buckles a bit unfortunately. For most of the film, the situations and conflicts are very similar - one of them behaved like a jerk, a cheating cad or a co-dependent twit, the girl got mad and broke it off, now one is very sad and the other talks him through it. It almost starts to get a little predictable as we move through the nine years (punctuated by a day and date title card over black) and each guy alternates between the shoulder to cry on and the guy who was just dumped. There is a major twist towards the end (causing the film to end a bit too abruptly) but it's still a thin idea for a feature length screenplay, especially (and probably unfairly on my part) compared to the excellent plotting and beautifully developed supporting characters in Being Awesome.
That said, Gardner squeaks this by because he and his co-star Gilliam are very good actors. They have a comfortable authenticity and chemistry and are totally believable as close friends with a few unspoken issues. The acting is really pitch-perfect throughout - no false notes or forced scenes. It is intelligent and I did enjoy watching Gardner stretch himself as an actor. He puts himself through a lot more paces here than in Being Awesome, showing more range and intensity. He has a very accessible and likable screen presence and I think he should have a legitimate acting career beyond small indie films.
If I had seen We Got Lucky before Being Awesome, I might have given it a higher rating. But because I have seen what Allen Gardner is capable of, this felt less ambitious and substantial. As it is though, We Got Lucky may not be Awesome but it is still cool enough to seek out.
And, fair or unfair, my expectations remain high to see what Gardner does next (his next film Bad Bad Men is due later this year).