Somewhere in Lucky You is a very solid drama trying to get out. This is clearly shown when the screen is set alight by the rivalry between father and son gamblers Huck Cheever (Bana) and his dad, two-times Poker World Champion, LC (Duvall). Even though the back-story is a hoary old mess of clichés — LC abandoned the family when Huck was a kid, raided the family accounts, sold the furniture, etc, all for stake money — Duvall and Bana suggest so much more depth than is perhaps there. Even the clash of characters, Huck’s impetuosity versus LC’s measured approach, seems to have a foot in reality.
The problem though is that Lucky You isn’t a father/son relationship drama. It’s a romance and that’s where everything goes wrong. The love interest is Billie (Barrymore), the jazz-singing sister of an old friend of Huck’s. She’s a fresh-faced hick in the cynical ol’ world of Las Vegas and gets drawn into the bad boy appeal of Huck’s professional gambling lifestyle. A shame then that there’s no obvious chemistry between the actors. Huck is regularly shown to be a true player, a body language expert with an understanding of the human psyche, and the message of his attraction to Billie is, clearly, you never know where love is going to strike. However, none of it rings true. While this means her simpering ways make his bravado look false — which it clearly is – it’s not in the manner it’s supposed to.
Their on/off/on again/off again whirlwind romance is supposed to be Huck’s redemption. Instead it feels like a small step towards convenient companionship with someone who looks like a Sunday school teacher. Things are made even worse when Billie’s sister, played by Messing, appears. The spark between her and Bana is surprising — who knew Will & Grace’s Grace could be so sexy? — and highlights all the weaknesses of him and Drew. Curtis Hanson directs and, compared to the likes of LA Confidential, 8 Mile and The Wonder Boys, Lucky You feels like he’s treading water.
Even when things are brought to a satisfying end over the poker table, there’s a bizarre and pointless tacked-on scene where Drew / Billie gets to explain the significance of what just happened. Yes, Curtis, we know. We’ve been paying attention. We’re adults. We understand. That clunky moment suggests a lack of confidence in both the audience and the film. It’s misplaced for the former but, sadly, is spot on for the latter. Good in parts, yes, but overall, a strange and sometimes awkward mess.