Documentarian Jeffrey Blitz makes nice movies. With his crossword puzzle documentary Spellbound and now the lottery documentary Lucky, Blitz shows a fascination with the mysteries of human nature, but his films sometimes communicate that interest in pleasing little anecdotes rather than heavy emotional stories that convey something profound about the world. That breeziness is both a strength of Blitz’s oeuvre and its greatest weakness, especially when he’s faced with a subject as rich as the strange fortunes of people who’ve won the lottery. The subject might just be too broad for a single film, especially one this featherweight; Blitz takes on so much material and so many different characters that he can’t deal with anything extensively.
Sacrificing depth for breadth, Blitz’s film surveys a wide array of lottery winners, from a family that deals with their newfound wealth in such a sane, responsible, and functional way that they almost begin to seem freakish to a kooky, larger-than-life old-timer whose life devolved into an Elmore Leonard novel after his victory, complete with murder attempts by relatives, deranged shopping sprees, and other grotesque excesses. As one of the film’s interview subjects acknowledges, winning the lottery puts your character faults on steroids.
Ideally, winning the lottery means freedom: freedom from responsibility, jobs, mortgages, and bills. But as the colorful case studies here illustrate, winning the lottery presents its own set of burdens and responsibilities. To paraphrase leading economic theorist Notorious B.I.G., more money brings more problems. Lucky is too polite to delve too far into the sordid tabloid downside to winning millions, however. This is Sundance fare, not Inside Edition. Affable to a fault, it’s diverting and engaging throughout, but doesn’t add up to much. Its sensibility may be more Utne Reader but its easy, bite-sized lightheartedness feels more Reader’s Digest.
Key features: Deleted scenes.