You know that the Iraq war has draggged on too long when Hollywood is making a jaunty road movie about returning soldiers. In The Lucky Ones, Michael Peña and Canadian sweetheart Rachel McAdams play two American soldiers who get stranded in a U.S. airport at the start of a 30-day leave, and hitch a ride in a rental van with a retiring Iraq vet played by Tim Robbins.
This amiable but shambling odyssey finds a wonky middle ground between Coming Home and Trains, Plains and Automobiles—though it feels like it secretly wants to be a Iraq vet version Y Tu Maman Tambien but is afraid to go there. It’s the kind of lazy script that makes you feel comfy and smug because you’re always a few pages ahead of what’s on screen. But I was happy to go along the ride, relishing the company of the actors.
Playing a soldier with shrapnel wound in his groin who’s not sure if he can get it up, Peña has a warm, self-possessed charm, and a knack for keeping half his performance to himself. Cast as a suburban Joe ambushed by a ruined marriage, Robbins glides through the film in a congenial stupor. But the real treat is McAdams, who plays the most wholesome/sexy working-class girl-next-door you’d ever want to have on your side in a barroom brawl. She lights up the screen with sensible beauty and rambuctious goodwill. For the record, I’ve decided I’m in hopelessly love with her (from a wholesome distance) and will happily watch anything she’s in. So much for my critical judgement.
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.