The Lucky Ones is a 2008 American comedy-drama directed by Neil Burger. The screenplay by Burger and Dirk Wittenborn focuses on three United States Army soldiers who find themselves drawn together by unforeseen circumstances.
Having completed his latest tour of duty, middle-aged Staff Sergeant Fred Cheaver (Tim Robbins) has retired from military service and is returning home to his wife and son in suburban St. Louis. Private First Class Colee Dunn (Rachel McAdams) and Staff Sergeant T.K. Poole (Michael Peña) each have a thirty-day leave, and both are headed to Las Vegas. Dunn plans to visit the family of her friend, a soldier who was killed in action after saving her life, and Poole wants to engage the services of a sex surrogate he hopes will cure the impotence he is experiencing as the result of a shrapnel injury before he reunites with his girlfriend.
Upon arrival at the John F. Kennedy International Airport, the three strangers discover all outbound flights have been cancelled due to a lengthy blackout that ended just prior to their arrival. Rather than face a potentially long wait before normal flight schedules resume, they rent a minivan and begin to drive westward.
Arriving home in St. Louis, Cheaver learns his wife Pat (Molly Hagan) wants a divorce, and his son Scott (Mark L. Young) has been accepted at Stanford University. Scott’s scholarship will pay for only part of his tuition and he needs to pay the $20,000 balance immediately in order to secure his place at the university. Cheaver decides to visit his brother in Salt Lake City, but first drives Dunn and Poole to the airport so they can fly to Las Vegas. When they see how devastated Cheaver is, they fear his state of mind will put him at risk on the open road and decide to continue with him. As their journey progresses and they open themselves up to each other, the three gradually become closer and find themselves sharing unexpected adventures.
At a revival meeting conducted by Pastor Jerry Nolan (Spencer Garrett), a member of the congregation invites them to a birthday party in his palatial home. They conflict with the man’s adult children over the latter’s anti-war sentiments and Cheaver is seduced by a guest who expects him to participate in a threesome with her and her husband Bob. Later, Dunn and Poole leave Cheaver at a campsite. While driving, they are forced to flee an approaching tornado and take shelter in a drainage ditch. As they cling closely to each other, Poole discovers he might not need the sex surrogate after all.
Cheaver decides to bypass Salt Lake City and try his luck in the Las Vegas casinos. When Dunn discovers that a guitar similar to the one she is returning to her boyfriend’s parents recently sold at an online auction for $22,000, she is tempted to give it to Cheaver, but he encourages her to complete her mission.
Dunn is welcomed warmly by her boyfriend’s parents, Tom (John Diehl) and Jeanie Klinger (Annie Corley), but quickly discovers that not only nothing he had told her about himself and his past was true, but he had omitted some important details as well. Neither of the Klingers recognise the guitar, supposedly a family heirloom, and living with them are Shannon and the baby she had after a one-night stand with their son. The Klingers invite Dunn to spend the remainder of her leave with them. Disillusioned, she declines, but she asks if she can keep the guitar, and they readily agree.
Dunn, Cheaver, and Poole are reunited at the local police station. Poole had confessed to a casino robbery Dunn’s boyfriend had claimed he committed before enlisting, in order to avoid returning to the Middle East by being sentenced to a prison term. His plan backfires when he learns the crime was yet another fabrication. Dunn insists Cheaver take the guitar but he tells her he already has the $20,000 he needs. His friends are stunned he won the money so quickly, but Cheaver confesses he received it as a bonus for re-enlisting. They go their separate ways, but weeks later meet again at the airport as they prepare to return to Iraq.
Production & Filming Details
- Director: Neil Burger.
- Producers: Neil Burger, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Rick Schwartz.
- Writers: Neil Burger and Dirk Wittenborn.
- Music: Rolfe Kent.
- Cinematography: Declan Quinn.
- Editor: Naomi Geraghty.
- Production: Koppelman & Levien Productions, Overnight Productions, and QED International.
- Distributor: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.
- Release Date: 26 September 2008 (US).
- Running Time: 115 Minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.