I have always had bad luck, particularly in regard to my health. I have had more stitches above the neck than most people have had anywhere. I’ve had truly freak accidents that required surgical repair—this one time there was a lime—and illnesses that you only read about in books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My luck is so bad it’s good for other people. If we’re ever in a situation together where there’s risk of one person’s catastrophic injury, feel free to relax.
For the purposes of this story, I have chronic migraines; they have always been and always shall be. But there are harbingers: my eye feels “crinkly,” as if my eyelid has gone cubist inside, and/or my mouth feels dry and yet fills with saliva, just as it does when you are about to vomit. I am a desert in this time before, and the taste is mild but tinny, a tooth-shaving of copper dissolving on my tongue, a drop of blood burning at the back of my throat.
I become sensitive to everything. Smells and sound are difficult to bear. Nothing should touch me—I wear only the migraine shirt. It is 19 years old now and looks it, but I will wear it till it falls off my body into dust and then I will be lost without its whisper-thin perfection. My cat won’t lay next to me if I’m topless (long story, he’s a nevernude) so he will have a hard time letting go of the shirt too.
I crawl into bed with a giant bottle of water, some crackers, and a computer or an iPad on the lowest display, and watch absolute trash until I pass out, and hopefully feel better when I wake up. That is where our story begins.
I have watched some really awful shows and movies because of this. I have laid in my bed paralyzed by pain through hours of reality programming. But mostly I watch romantic comedies in this state, because they are so easy and if you miss something it doesn’t much matter and they always end well, which makes me feel a little better about everything.
I have seen Just My Luck at least twice already. Maybe three times really, I can’t recall. It was on HBO OnDemand for a long time. Even still, I don’t remember many details. I think there’s a scene in the rain, and there’s definitely a bowling alley. Lindsay Lohan was timeline appropriate, so < Mean Girls but > I Know Who Killed Me, while Chris Pine was forgettable. I literally forgot him. The basic premise however is that LiLo is very lucky, while Captain Kirk is very unlucky. And then they switch, followed directly by HIJINKS, and then they fall in love.
So the movie starts with the rain. The one scene I remember is the opening scene. It’s raining, but then LiLo (“Ashley”) comes outside without an umbrella, and because she’s so lucky, it just stops. She’s already relying on luck instead of just planning for the day like a normal person. The doorman hails her a cab, and when she finds a $5 bill stuck to her shoe getting inside it, SHE DOESN’T GIVE THE $5 TO HIM. These two actions are enough to make me want to push her into a beehive.
She’s so lucky she gets to work early. Interesting definition of good fortune. That luck leads to her getting into the one working elevator, meeting a conventionally handsome man, saving the big meeting, and getting assigned the project from said meeting: planning a record mogul’s party. It’s very 2006.
Meanwhile, Capt. Kirk (“Jake”) is very unlucky. This manifests as him being splashed by a cab, stepping in a puddle, splitting his pants, touching dog poop with his hands, and then accidentally falling on some lady with those same split pants so she thinks he’s a sexual predator. He gets arrested. HIJINKS LOL! Such bad luck! His raison d’etre is to get the record mogul from LiLo’s meeting to listen to/sign this band he’s representing. They’ve given him one week before they return to unknown country of origin. Everyone is boring. I am beginning to wonder if this movie could be improved by a migraine.
The record mogul, as played by Faizon Love, is easily the funniest part of the movie. He’s stereotypically into furs and rings etc., but his line delivery is A+. Was this already a stereotype in 2006, or were they very on trend and now it just feels old and dated? I can barely remember last week because I am old and dated. He looks like a Gwyneth Paltrow-colored Popple in his fur coat, I’m sorry (not sorry) to say. Still, I want to crawl into his plush arms and snug myself to sleep. Regardless, his deadpan cutdowns are appreciated.
LiLo on the other hand… Her acting is not great. It’s not bad, just sort of forced at times. She’s certainly likeable, and I think a good chunk of the problem is the stilted writing. Who says things like, “Down girl, you’re drooling on my doormat?” Especially what young “hip” person would say this? And who has a doormat inside? Is this normal? Am I doing doormats wrong? Full disclosure, I re-watched The Parent Trap after this as well, and she was pretty good in that, even with the accent.
There are many many things in this movie that require suspension of disbelief, and this next thing is one of them: LiLo plans the mogul’s party in like two weeks. It’s a huge record label party, in NYC, planned in two weeks. A masquerade, with stilt-walking waiters*, “skydancers” aka aerialists, and people who “feel like anything can happen here,” including her boss who she set up on a date with her neighbor. Basically she made a Cirque du Soleil party, so again, very 2006. She’s got on all the shimmer makeup and a ribbon choker, and looks like the cover of a dELiA*s catalog.
Capt. Kirk sneaks in as a dancer for he MUST. SIGN. THE. BAND., but instead he gives her major elevator eyes, and they kiss on the dance floor in some weird fate moment that has no causation/basis in reality. But you know its fate because the clichéd fortune teller hired for this shitbag party flashes a tarot card with the word “FATE” and two crossed stars across the screen. I don’t think I paid much attention to this movie before because I like to think I would have noticed that it was pretty bad, but I guess maybe migraine auras make giant piles of crap look like quality programming. I’m a little nervous about what other movies I’ve watched that might be terrible. Is Notting Hill a bad movie? Runaway Bride? Guys?
Kirk runs after the mogul (in my head I call him FatCat) and saves him from the certain death of an off-roading taxi. Because he’s so damn grateful, FatCat signs the band. Good Luck! At the same time, LiLo’s shoe breaks. When she bends to examine the damage, her dress rips. Then she gets arrested because it turns out her neighbor is an escort. She gets fired, and for unclear reasons, a lady in lockup punches her in the face. Bad Luck! What I’m learning from this movie is that sex-related stuff is definitely bad luck.
Ten years ago I definitely wouldn’t have noticed that; today, I’m short months from being an attorney, working directly with former offenders of all varieties, and I guess I have to admit that even when you’re guilty, getting arrested is bad—maybe the worst—luck. It’s the kind of luck that doesn’t change when you kiss someone, or finish your sentence, or work really hard to prove your worth. In regard to his arrest: It’s not cute, deus ex per accidens raptorem, and it’s not a quick plot device. Accidental theft may be funny, maybe even accidental injury when slapstick and not terrifically violent; but accidental sexual assault, even when truly accidental, just doesn’t strike me the same way. In regard to her arrest, however, well—this section of the movie is particularly interesting given the rumors that have swirled around LiLo over the last years regarding how she supports her lifestyle, with whom she spends her time. For the record, none of it matters—at least until she is arrested, and “criminal” becomes how we define her.
Lilo’s bad luck continues; her beautiful apartment is ruined, flooded and moldy, everything destroyed. Staying with a friend, she gets a zit (quelle horreur!), her hair caught in blow dryer which then catches on fire—putting it out she breaks a mirror, puts out in the tub and short circuits the whole building. But Capt. Kirk is doing well for himself: his new apt with the band is amazing, FatCat’s sexpot assistant asks him out, wants to pay, and casually drops the fact that she’s late for her erotic massage class. She’s a two dimensional dream, like someone bought a Magic Grow Toy that started out as a red pill and it grew into a giant red fedora.
Somewhere along the line, LiLo gets clued into the fact that this is all a supernatural freaky Friday, and seeks out the fortune teller. LiLo is accusatory. “He took my good luck from me!?” But our magical trope of a guide answers wisely (of course), “Maybe he needed it more than you.”
And in the tradition of great movies everywhere, LiLo goes on a montage to get her luck back, kissing all the dancers from the event then scratching lotto tickets to test her luck. This is probably the best part of the movie, because it’s my sort of Sunday. But her friends are less awesome and respond, “You’ve kissed a dozen strangers; I love you but it’s probably best that we no longer touch.” No friends of mine!
This kissing spree ends at an art exhibit where she ends up falling into in a pile of mud, is arrested again, and gets punched by the same lady from her previous jail experience. Now I know a thing or two about pre-trial detention these days, and for that lady to still be there, she’s either recidivating at a vigorous speed, or more likely (since she appears to be wearing the same clothing), suffering dangerously close to unconstitutional processing delays at the hands of a broken system. But all we see is her punch LiLo for no reason. And bonus: she’s credited as “Tough Jailbird.” This is one of two women of color in the movie, the other being the oversexualized assistant.** This bullshit was written by women.
Stuff happens, it’s dumb. She takes on Capt. Kirk’s old job at the bowling alley and has a personal growth period. You can tell she’s grown as a person because she starts wearing task appropriate footwear. She breaks a bunch of stuff, she gets electrocuted. Probably the second best part of the movie is when she screams because it’s very realistic.
Capt. Kirk catches her when she falls off the ladder, and they do some falling in love stuff, like laundry. There’s more rain. Maybe this is the rain I remembered. Who knows. I’m terribly bored. His hair is so awful in this movie; how did he ever get more work looking like this?
Somehow his band has sold-out a huge concert venue even though they have only one song. FatCat audaciously requires that they have another, and LiLo saves the day. She overhears him saying something about Kirk saving his life, and realizes he’s the luck-stealer. She kisses him, and all is righted. She has some good luck for the rest of the day to prove it. But Capt. Kirk’s band locks the drummer under the stage and the show is going to be cancelled. She returns, kisses the Captain, the show goes on, and she leaves for Grand Central, convinced they cannot be together, because all romantic comedies need one last dramatic moment, and if they kiss again the luck will transfer and how can he be happy if he has bad luck??? OH THE HUMANITY.
At the station, all trains are delayed. But he followed her, and they fight over who is going to have the good luck because they will have each other. They kiss over and over and the trains keep going from on-time to delayed until the signs get all jumbly and unreadable, and if I was waiting for a train I would be goddamned furious. Finally they give the luck to his niece and walk off, happy and doomed.
I have to admit that prior to re-watching, I thought this movie was “fine.” I had seen it multiple times, remembered little to nothing, and considered it adequate. I would now describe it only as a movie I have watched. Maybe “not very good.” The icons of luck depicted (eg: black cat, broken mirror, spilled salt) are recognizable, and in some way that makes sense to include them, but there are more creative ways. The movie sacrificed quality for quantity in this respect. Lindsay Lohan was still likeable, so if you’re a fan, maybe you’ll like it, but it’s very white in every sense and the three characters of color are caricatures. Plus there’s a fortune teller who may or may not be Roma (“gypsy”), so do whatever with that one.
Ten years ago I was alone in a job I hated, directionless and unsure of why my body kept failing me. Today many things are different. I am working in a field that often exhausts me emotionally, but gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I still have migraines that can end a day before it begins; my body frustrates me in every sense, but I understand why.
And ten years ago, LiLo was a huge star, and Chris Pine was essentially no one. She had been famous for nearly a decade, and he wouldn’t become recognizable until 2009. But somehow, the premise of this movie became real life. By the time Star Trek came out, Lindsay Lohan was spiraling out of control. Chris Pine has successfully kept making movies and become a part of an enormous franchise, yet she has not been able to get her life back on track. Yet she is still famous, still has money, still has name recognition. She may not have the caliber of luck she once had, but she still has good luck. She’s not in acute medical need (that I know of, of course), and certainly not incarcerated, even though she could have been.
In movies, the person who has everything is always self-centered. When our Movie LiLo had luck, she assumed she always would, that her needs would be taken care of. It wasn’t until she had back luck that she started taking responsibility for herself. Ultimately it reads like the lesson is that you must suffer to appreciate what you’ve got. But was she ever suffering? She still had a place to stay, friends, food to eat, a job even. She got out of jail twice while Tough Jailbird stayed behind.
So while on one hand, I feel for our real LiLo, and it seems prescient and peculiar that the basic premise of the movie would come to pass for its stars, on the other hand, she’s still holding on to that $5 bill. Let it go girl, someone needs it more than you. Put on your task-appropriate footwear and join us, the happy and doomed.
*I feel so bad for stilt-walking waiters! They basically have to toe-touch to serve rich a-holes bougie cocktail wieners.
** Mackenzie Vega, who plays the niece is also half Colombian. It took me 75% of the movie to realize she played Grace Florrick on The Good Wife.
– The conventionally handsome elevator guy she goes on dates with is the gay cowboy from Nashville. I think his face is very white/blond-normal. He would have made a great Captain America.
– I enjoyed the line “I’m broke, jobless, and I just ate le jambon d’etranger. Stranger’s bacon—I thought it would sound better in French—I guess not.”
– Referring to the band as “the Beatles meets Blink-182” was supposed to sound awesome, but made me cringe all the way into my kidneys.
– There is a lot of poop in this movie. The bad luck poop touching right at the start, the mogul talks about getting paid to poop, a bird poops on Chris Pine, he has to plunge a clogged toilet, there’s a giant poop at the art exhibit, and LiLo drops her contact lens into the cat litter where there are visible cat poops. I mean that never happens. Is the cat sick? It didn’t even cover its own shit. MOST IMPORTANTLY HOWEVER, she puts that contact lens RIGHT BACK IN HER EYE. As far as I’m concerned she still had good luck because she’s lucky she didn’t get a brain infection and die.