“What would you buy if you had a million dollars?” This is the type of hypothetical fantasizing we’ve all indulged in as children, but what if you actually won that million dollars?
Lucky follows the rare people who have won the lottery, varying from 5.5 to 22 million dollars in winnings. The effects of fame and fortune are disclosed by the winners in interview format. Some find it a curse they’re happy to spend until they’re again broke; others help their families or migrate to wealthier locales to fit in.
The general idea behind the film is immediately an attractive one: how do one of our fellow proles cope with becoming a part of the elite? In a brief interview with a lottery player, he explains that he gambles so, “I can actually be free.” Right there is a golden opportunity to explore our definition of “free” in a country that heralds itself as the uber-democracy and how capitalism and wealth play into that concept.
But director Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science) doesn’t follow these breadcrumbs. When former friends of lottery winners Kristine and Steve’s tell us they are envious of their bump up the class ladder, the film fails to dig in and ask why. Why are we envious of the wealthy? What does it mean to us to have money, to yearn for it? Instead of providing an insightful document on the U.S.’s religion of greenbacks, it takes hunger for cash for granted.
Sure, we meet the guy who keeps a lid on his expenditures, except the stay cats he feeds every night and the stripper friends he visits; we even see the literal ruin of a man due to the cash (his siblings hired a hit man so they could acquire the wealth). But Lucky doesn’t get the pick axe to the heart (so to speak) and leaves an aftertaste just slightly better than the Inside Edition clips it uses.
When a Vietnamese lottery winner’s wife stops the interview when it becomes too emotional, it stands in metaphorically for the film overall. It could go deeper, but maybe it hurts too much.
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They’re not envious because they have money, they’re envious specifically because they got their money from the lottery. The couple that won expressed the same sentiment about how they were embarrased about how they got wealthy. Also, the tutor said roughly the same thing about how he lost his identity, so to speak, after winning the lotto because he no longer had anything to strive for.
The movie wasn’t about the fact that we worship money, it was about our relation to how we identify ourselves (ie. our jobs) and what getting it all really means to us.