Friday, August 06, 2010

Coney Island Story: Lucky Days

Virginia’s family is Russian, but she aspires to be Italian. Hers is a very Brooklyn story, but unfortunately her boyfriend is no fairy tale prince. At least she could still enjoy the roller coaster. Reportedly the last film shot at the old Astroland amusement park, Angelica and Tony Torn’s Lucky Days (trailer here) makes the most of its Coney Island location. Appropriately, it opens a one week run tonight at IndieScreen, Brooklyn’s newest venue for independent film.

Virginia is convinced her longtime boyfriend Vincent will soon pop the question. It is hard to understand why she has waited this long. Their relationship has been strictly no sex, just the occasional beating. Indeed, Virginia has taken a lot of abuse from both her family and Vincent’s. Yet she seems to be the only one responsible enough to hold down a steady job or do the household chores. She never really questions her life choices until a mysterious stranger from her past reappears.

Virginia has not seen Zeth (yes, even his name is quirky) in years, but there is no ignoring the electricity between them. While he is more free-spirited, he has serious issues of his own, like his brother J.C. (how about those initials) who is being fried to a crisp in the mental hospital where Virginia works. Will Virginia find happiness with Zeth or will she choose to remain a martyr? Whatever she decides, we can be sure it will be poignantly bittersweet.

Without a doubt, Angelica Torn is the major revelation of Lucky. Her powerhouse performance is both complex and dynamic. Yet, it comes in a film that is just all over the map. It is hard to tell if it is intended as an oddball indie comedy or a gritty domestic violence drama. It also seems to conflate ethnicity with eccentricity. Indeed, the constant screeching of Virginia’s family is embarrassing, for the wrong reasons. Still, the Torns (son and daughter of Rip Torn, who also appears in a small supporting role) undeniably ground the film in the Coney Island locale, fitting the Ferris wheel into nearly every other shot.

It is hard not to respect the honesty of Lucky, particularly the fearless work of Angelica Torn. While it is painfully well-intentioned, its uneven tone and some awkward supporting turns prevent it from landing the emotional knock-out punch. However, it is about as Brooklyn as a film can get, so if you’re going to see it, IndieScreen should be the place. Though tonight’s opening screening is sold out, it plays at the Williamsburg art-house through August 12.