Lucky Them lives in the sidelong, which is both a feature and a bug. It has only a sidelong interest in heroine Ellie Klug’s career in music journalism, which makes for the usual suspended disbelief about magazine logistics, as her editor recruits her for a Hail-Mary story. It also has only a sidelong interest in that article, which is ostensibly an investigation into the disappearance of Matthew Smith, the presumed-dead megastar musician who was the love of young Ellie’s life. Instead, director Megan Griffiths meanders through a handful of unhurried plot eddies. But that just gives us more time with characters who are more winning than, on paper, they have any right to be.
Though “completely and utterly totaled” isn’t uttered about Ellie, it might as well be. She’s in a state of suspended adolescence, wandering the dreamily-shot streets of Seattle looking for musicians before they get cool and having serial one-night stands. It might seem threadbare except for Toni Collette, who gives Ellie enough dry self-awareness that she never comes across as a victim of circumstance; she’s a mess on her own terms. Thomas Haden Church brings deeply funny self-seriousness to Charlie, an oddball quasi-ex of Ellie’s who insists on documenting her journey in exchange for underwriting it.
Oliver Platt and Off-Broadway crossover Nina Arianda lend welcome edge to Ellie’s editor and no-nonsense best friend, respectively, but the movie’s at its best when Collette and Church are playing off their perfectly off-center chemistry, moving effortlessly from snarky banter into moments of touching reflection, as Ellie begins to face her lengthy past with Smith, and Charlie takes tentative steps toward happiness. It’s a sidelong coming-of-age that feels as though it skims the bittersweetness of its ending, but Lucky Them cares more about the trip than the destination.