Toni Collette plays a music journo given the job of searching for her rock star ex-lover.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the alternative music scene that came before is unquestionably better than the scene right now. It's something we've all grown up crowing (no matter if we said the same thing a decade ago). So we know that the tendency towards nostalgia and a willingness to make heroes out of drunken twenty-year-olds who only released two records is damn near irresistible.
For the semi-autobiographical film Lucky Them, this kind of nostalgia is both the target and the appeal. Loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Emily Wachtel in the New York music scene, the film is set in Seattle, the birthplace of grunge, and spends equal time exposing nostalgia and falling right into its trap.
Lucky Them tells the story of an aimless music journalist, Ellie Klug (Toni Collette), as she searches for an acclaimed Seattle musician, who supposedly died years earlier. Ellie is initially reluctant to uncover the whereabouts of her former lover and music idol, and she struggles to find closure, while her ex-boyfriend Charlie (Thomas Haden Church) films an amateur documentary about her efforts.
While the film supposedly runs close to Wachtel's own personal experiences, in taking on the mythology behind Seattle's music history (where director Megan Griffiths lived for many years), the film manages to feel like a broader story of music nostalgia. The character of the lost musician, Matthew Smith, makes references to the early deaths of Pacific Northwest music idols Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith, and the whole film is layered with Seattle alt-rock nostalgia.
The soundtrack that plays over the sweeping shots of the wet, dreary landscape hints at riffs from Nirvana's 'All Apologies', and memorabilia lent to the film by the iconic local record label Sub Pop line the walls of almost every scene, from original Mudhoney posters to gold records from the Shins and Postal Service.
These pleasant hometown references make Seattle feel like an extra character in the film. Alongside this, Church gives an excellent comic performance as the eloquent but music-illiterate Charlie and the fantastic Oliver Platt appears as Ellie's editor Giles, the surprisingly patient, ageing pot-smoker forced to deal with shareholder demands that he boost circulation in a fading print music journalism industry. All this makes it easier to stick with Ellie, whose relentlessly immature decisions, alongside the uncomfortably petulant tone Collette uses, make it difficult to connect with her.
Although there's a surprise cameo that manages to be charming rather than distracting from the story, it's a shame that Lucky Them finishes in almost rom-com cliche terrain. It's enough to make you wish you were watching Charlie's fictional documentary instead, like the real nostalgia junkie that you are.
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