Friday, July 1, 2011

On DVD: Jeffrey Blitz's LUCKY tracks the happy/sad/strange lives of lottery winners

In the bizarre world of movie-making and -distribution, Jeffrey Blitz, the fellow who, nearly a decade ago, made the popular documentary Spellbound, seems to have come up incredibly unlucky with his follow-up documentary titled, yes, LUCKY. Because the film was given no theatrical release (that TrustMovies could determine: not according to the IMDB page, at least), there were no reviews to speak of -- except those from a handful of us bloggers. This is a shame because Lucky is a thoroughly engaging and meaningful documentary that, if it has any agenda, that would seem to be simply getting us viewers to consider what the various statewide lotteries are, what they do, what they cost (in a number of ways) and how they effect the people who play them.

Of course, the above probably reads as agenda enough, particularly for those people who play the lottery almost religiously and do not want, thank you, this filmmaker (shown at right) tampering with their god. When I've suggested seeing this doc to people whom I know to be players, "No thanks" was their response. Was this out of fear, dashed hopes, or plain annoyance? I'll have to leave that question to their therapists to discover. This is too bad because Lucky -- besides being great fun, a little sad, and mostly eye-opening about what happens when a monetary windfall enters your life -- never judges or natters. Even the film's several charming animated sections (like the below) simply fill us in about the lottery's history and some of its more bizarre statistics.

"Winning the lottery is like throwing Miracle-Gro on your character defects," notes a fellow about one of our "winners" whose life grows ever-crazier until it spirals into failure. This line could just as easily apply to some of our winners, in terms of their better characteristics, too, for we see all kinds of attitudes and behaviors here -- from those who must credit god for their win to others who balance their "good life" with charity work (that would be the family, pictured below, who used some of its winnings to see Venice (no, not the real one in Italy -- the faux version in Las Vegas).

A Vietnamese family, former "boat people" rescued by  French ship and settled in the USA, build a marvelous home for their entire extended family back in Vietnam; a math professor decides to learn to sing and meets the woman of his dreams after his wife (who says she no longer needs him) leaves; a man who lived in the shadow of his parents and never learned to socialize comes to terms with how -- money or no -- he really wants to live.

We meet others, too -- including one fellow who only thinks he's won (a dirty trick stolen off a TV sitcom) and a woman who spends most of her money each week on the lottery.  The filmmaker does not hand-slap here, but one might wish it were otherwise. The old saw that "those who spend the most on the lottery are those who can least afford it" has seldom seemed so appropriate. The movie begins and ends with the fellow who picks the numbers in the -- I think -- Powerball lottery (below), who waxes philosophic, as best he can. The song over the final credit is supremely appropriate and ironically funny, given all that we've seen.

Lucky -- from Big Beach Films and Docurama -- is a deceptively profound piece of exploration, available now for sale or rental from the usual suspects.

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