Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Zac Efron's leatherneck character, "The Lucky One", learns chess and music


I missed Scott Hicks’s film “The Lucky One” (for Warner Brothers, and Village Roadshow, an Australian company that produces a lot of WB’s major releases) when it came around last Spring, so I treated myself to the BluRay DVD.

My first reaction is, will Logan (Zac Efron) learn his chess endings and go on to become a grand master, or will that be the future just of the boy Ben (Riley Thomas Steart) who also plays the violin?

Symbols of art and culture abound in the Louisiana Plaquemaines bayou here, which looks like a civilized place, even during the tropical storm that helps shape the climax of the movie. 

I had heard the premise.  While on his third tour in Iraq as a Marine and caught in a night ambush, Logan survives, and finds a souvenir with a picture of another leatherneck’s girl  friend.  Unable to identify the lost Marine, he takes it back home to Colorado, and tracks her (Beth, played by Taylor Schilling) down, to Louisiana.  He plays dumb, and talks his way into getting a job as a dog trainer on her grandmother’s plantation.

Beth has been divorced from the angry town sheriff, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), who threatens to take Ben away and acts like he would abuse his badge to get rid of the Logan, who is becoming “competition”.  The Gulf Coast climate, as well as a weakly constructed treehouse and swamp footbridge, give the characters an opportunity to reach a just conclusion.

There’s an amusing chess game scene, where Ben beats Logan with the Black pieces, and the position, from the barest glance, appears to be from a controversial variation in the Kings Indian Defense where it’s easy for White to stumble into a vicious, sacrificial mating attack. (Chess dogmatists like Larry Kaufman say that need not happen.) At least Logan knows enough chess to follow theory for a while.  Subsequent scenes show both characters holding the book by grandmaster Averbakh, “Basic Chess Endings”.  Logan opens it to a chapter called “Queening a Pawn.”  I think I have that book somewhere, lost in household moves.  I never learned them all.  It takes unifocal focus to become a chess grandmaster, just like it does to become a surgeon. 

Logan is surprising in his ability to support Ben in the music scenes, accompanying Ben on the piano when Ben plays a common hymn in a church service.  

Keith, not surprisingly, resents his boy’s interest in the fine arts of life, when he can’t field a ground ball.  Today, the world is finally requiring it’s sports heroes to become civilized.  I wonder if Nationals’ rookie sensation, Bryce Harper (the “clown question man”) will get to act in another “Douglas Sirk” movie like this some day.

The early battle scenes are brief but quite harrowing. Just as in "Hurt Locker", the communicate what it is like to be shelled.  

The Associated Press has a video where Zac talks about the role.


Efron is 24 now. Remember when he played Cameron in the WB series for Spelling, “Summerland”.

The official site is here

The DVD has a 10-minute short, “Zac and Taylor’s Amazing Chemistry”.  It’s not BluRay, and you notice the difference, once you’re used to the clarity of the feature. 

Pictures: Mine (from CT, MS).  

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