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Capsule movie reviews: 'If a Tree Falls'

Also reviewed: 'Life, Above All,' 'Love Etc.' and 'Lucky.'

July 15, 2011|Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Lucy (Ari Graynor) is a ditzy, gold-digging receptionist who ignores officemate Ben (Colin Hanks), a nerdy mama's boy nursing a crush on Lucy since childhood. Then Ben wins the lottery, and Lucy is suddenly all smiles. But piled on to this setup is one of those dark indie-comedy gimmicks that screenwriter Kent Sublette and director Gil Cates Jr. think is an instant game changer but is really a sign of creative inertia: Ben's a fledgling serial killer.

That Lucy's discovery of this is a nagging glitch to her fortune-stripping plans is irritatingly played both straight and silly, and while Hanks has zero cred as a secret psycho, it's truly a shame to see Graynor — who gave one of the great comic drunk performances of all time in "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" — completely flounder with an impossible role.

The lottery machine shown at the beginning of "Lucky" then becomes an unintentional metaphor for this laughless, quirk-stuffed black comedy: Nearly every step the movie makes feels completely random, with no payoff.

— Robert Abele

"Lucky." MPAA rating: R for language, some violence and brief sexuality. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; and Culver Plaza Theatres, Culver City.

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