When the history of today’s movies is written, there will be a special chapter dedicated to the influence of reality TV. There already exist some books but we’re just beginning to bite into this meaty subject (Consider CATFISH and REALITY SHOW). It has been around with us long enough to have developed a reality of its own with its own conciets. We accept a nice house loaded with hidden cameras as par for the course. We accept nonactors embarking upon a unscripted train wreck. And, sadly, we accept that human beings can too easily allow themselves to become subhuman. That last one is classic and transcends the here and now. In the case of “Lucky Bastard,” it is aiming to be a classic and it succeeds to a great extent.
“Lucky Bastard” begins dark, lightens up a bit, and then like the proverbial frog placed in a pot of cold water that is set to gradually boil, it will catch you by surprise as it heats up. We begin with some introductory text about the film being “found footage” and we are given a heads up as to what we are in for. The end result is going to be pretty gruesome. We rewind back to what set things into motion. It is a typical enough day at the home base of a porn site. But there will be one big difference. Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue) is asked to participate on the site’s claim to fame, an opportunity for a Joe Average to become a “Lucky Bastard” by having sex with a porn star. Ashley refuses to engage in sex acts with ameuters. But Mike (Don McManus), the site’s owner, insists and finally convinces Ashley to go along. She is there as Mike rolls through some potential candidates. They agree on one sad sack, Dave G. (Jay Paulson) who appears to be harmless.
Little by little, there are red flags to indicate that Dave G. is not emotionally equipped to handle his new status. Ashley is the first to clue in but her concerns go ignored. Mike does not take no for answer. He is more concerned over his May/December entanglement with a budding porn star, Casey (Catherine Annette). And Mike’s chief cameraman, Kris (Chris Wylde) is driven to distraction with his idea that Casey is becoming too domineering on the set, taking up too much of Mike’s time and, shudder the thought, learning how to use one of the cameras on set. The fact that Dave G. is just not acting cool and collected is finally addressed by Mike but only superficially. Sometimes you just have to learn the hard way.
There is a quiet moment in the film that hints at the greater world outside. Mike is in the middle of preparing the set when he hears tender music in the background. He finds Casey playing the piano. She is playing Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” a melancholy and quite appropriate piece of music. Mike is moved and asks Casey to please continue but she refuses. This triggers Mike to ask Casey what it is that she really wants but Casey is too guarded and coy to ever reveal that to him if she really knew herself. It is one of a number of understated moments that add so much and are perfectly timed.
Directed by Robert Nathan, from a script by Nathan and Lukas Kendall, “Lucky Bastard” is audacious and dark in just the right way. Within the “found footage” genre, with “Blair Witch Project” setting the bar high, this film has a lot of new things to say. It provides a number of intense original moments. There is an excellent horror/thriller vibe to this movie and “Hellraiser” editor Tony Randel can share some of the credit along with cinematographer Clay Westervelt and unit production manager Jim Wynorski.
“Lucky Bastard” debuts on Friday, April 5, 2013 at Vintage Cinemas’ Los Feliz 3 Cinemas, 1822 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles. This film has an NC-17 rating due to explicit sexual content. Visit the film’s website here.
From the press release:
LUCKY BASTARD is the directorial debut for Robert Nathan (Law & Order), the Peabody-winning, Emmy-nominated veteran writer. The film stars Don McManus (The Shawshank Redemption) as the proprietor of a website that invites fans to have sex with porn stars. Jay Paulson (Mad Men) plays Dave, an eager young fan given a chance to have sex with the fabulous Ashley Saint, played by Betsy Rue (My Bloody Valentine). Everyone gets more than they bargained for from the seemingly mild-mannered Dave…to gruesome results.
“LUCKY BASTARD defies categorization in its blend of suspense, drama, social commentary and humor in the ‘found-footage’ format,” said Vineyard Haven’s Lukas Kendall, the film’s co-writer and Executive Producer. “We decided to take the film directly to audiences as it plays exceedingly well as a communal, theatrical experience.”
“LUCKY BASTARD is a mix of themes that epitomize independent filmmaking,” said Robert Nathan, also a co-writer and Executive Producer. “The film offers a reflective take on the deepest currents in our society: its preoccupation with sexual desire, the commoditization of sexuality, and humiliation as a product of commerce.”
The film carries the rarely used NC-17 rating. “There was a time when the most important and relevant pictures—Midnight Cowboy, A Clockwork Orange and Last Tango In Paris—were rated X, the precursor to NC-17,” said Kendall. “We have a long way to go to measure up to those masterpieces, but our society should have a place for thoughtful artistic dramas for adult audiences. Our film has less sex than the average late-night cable erotica—and no actual sex—but the rating is appropriate, and we proudly accept it.”
You can listen to my podcast interview with Robert Nathan, the director and co-writer of “Lucky Bastard,” by going here.