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Can We Talk About Toni Collette in ‘Lucky Them’?

We’re highlighting five performances of the year that deserve recognition. Toni Collette shines as a music journalist who goes on a reluctant quest to uncover the truth behind a rock mystery.

Set in the Seattle music scene, Megan Griffith’s Lucky Them was one of many standout gems at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Reminiscent of movies like Almost Famous and Velvet Goldmine, the indie sadly flew under the radar with audiences upon its theatrical and VOD release in late May. Filled with humor and pathos, the film is anchored by a revelatory performance from Toni Collette as Ellie Klug, a weary music critic struggling to find satisfaction when her life abruptly turns upside down.

In a single close-up, Collette manages to convey Klug’s sadness, laughter, relief and acceptance instantaneously.

Toni Collette, known for her incredible versatility, is clearly having a ball here. As Ellie Klug, Collette has the opportunity to play a flawed protagonist who drinks too much and appears to be comfortable with her cycle of one-night stands and morning hangovers. What is particularly striking about this character is the fact that Klug is a 40 something woman with no interest in having kids or settling down. Through her deeply layered and complex performance, Collette plays Klug not as a woman who is crying out for help or for a man to save her (though aspiring musician Lucas Stone wants to try), but rather as a self-reliant and talented professional who, though she is going through a bad patch, lives by her own rules. 

When Klug is tasked by her editor to write a cover story about an infamous musician named Matthew Smith who disappeared a decade earlier at the height of his fame, she immediately balks. Why? Because Smith is the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart. Collette, by fidgeting with her collar and showing visible signs of unease, makes it clear that Klug is uneasy about confronting her past, especially at this low point in her life,

To write the story, Collette’s Klug must play detective to track down Smith’s potential whereabouts. She reconnects with another her former flame, the eccentric billionaire turned doc filmmaker Charlie (a fabulous Thomas Haden Chruch) and the two set off on a road trip to discover the truth about Smith. Sardonic and tense, Collette’s Klug reluctantly revisits places where she and Smith used to hang out. One standout scene puts Klug and Charlie in the basement of Smith’s parents’ house. When Smith’s father catches the two, a tense encounter ensues in which Collette manages to convey her character’s years of pain and anger in an instant. It’s clear that Smith’s father holds Klug responsible for Matthew’s disappearance, and the guilty aura Collette projects makes it clear that Klug feels the same.

The price for Charlie’s help is that he, as an aspiring documentarian, gets to film their journey, and Collette uses this framing device masterfully in her portrayal of Klug.  She allows Klug to open up only on camera, and she moves Klug from appearing unsure and self-conscious to eventually using her time in front of the camera as a kind of therapy. When Klug recounts the story of how she and Smith first met (as two campers at a summer fat camp), Collette makes the character come alive, brilliantly displaying a gamut of emotions as Klug reminisces about their first shy kiss and the first time he played his music for her. Collette’s Klug is as surprised by her tears as the audience. Her silent weeping is the first overt indication of the extent of grief and trauma over Smith’s disappearance. Never over the top, Collette subtly peels back the layers as Klug struggles to control her long-dormant emotions.

Do Charlie and Klug solve the mystery of Matthew Smith’s disappearance? Absolutely—though we will not go into detail here. We will say however that Collette’s performance is particularly masterful when Klug finds her answer. In a single close-up, Collette manages to convey Klug’s sadness, laughter, relief and acceptance instantaneously. We, like Thomas Haden Church’s Charlie, can only sit back and watch. Collette leaves no doubt that Klug will now able be to start her life again with a renewed sense of self and purpose. We encourage viewers to, like Charlie, tag along on Klug’s remarkable journey and enjoy Toni Collette at the peak of her powers.

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