Judge Jake Ware would rather take his chances with the scratchers.
"The money I get from the lottery feels like a little gift. And the money I spend on the lottery is a little dream."
What would you do if tonight you won enough money to retire and never had to worry about your finances again? Would you storm into your boss' office and throw your job in his face? Would you go on a yearlong shopping spree? Would you spend a few years traveling around the world aboard your private yacht? Perhaps you would follow in Albert Schweitzer's footsteps and open a hospital somewhere deep in Africa? Or do you think that your new wealth would create a rift in your family and social circle, make you paranoid, or turn you into a hermit and make you abandon all material things?
With Lucky, his sophomore feature length documentary, Spellbound director Jeffrey Blitz profiles a group of lottery winners trying to find out what makes these individuals unique or, as one of the participants calls them, a species onto themselves. Blitz poses an interesting question about winning the lottery: Does one become what they dreamed they would become, or does one become that which one most deeply and secretly is? The answer seems to lie somewhere in-between.
Lucky introduces us to several people who have won lottery jackpots. Some won a smallish amount of only around $5 million. One couple featured won $135 million. All of them were deeply affected by their wins even if in some instances their daily lives did not change all that much. Most of them are thankful for their good fortune. One is not very positive about the experience. But all of them have had to adjust to their new lives as lottery jackpot winners.
It's strange to think that winning the lottery could be anything other than the answer to one's prayers, but most people do not consider the whole scope of repercussions that a winning ticket would bring them. For one thing, they would become public property for a while as they are paraded around in front of the media as a shining example of the maxim that anyone can be a winner. Then there would be the task of actually managing the winnings, something that one of the interviewees featured in Lucky calls a full time job. Also there is the realization that no matter how firmly your feet are on the ground, winning the lottery would probably make your life quite different from anyone in your family or your circle of friends, leaving you in a world of your own. Another winner profiled in Lucky likened winning the jackpot to a death in the family; the impact is so immediate and profound that it changes everything. Yet another winner mentions that there should be a course teaching skills for coping with winning the lottery.
Lucky explores the magical stories of each of the profiled winners' sudden wealth, but then digs a little deeper to expose some of the less desirable effects of winning the jackpot. It skips from story to story with ease, joining the various strands with lottery factoids presented via charming animated vignettes.
And what of all the millions who are not winners? For as much as any lottery company would have you think that anyone, even you, could be a winner, the truth is that for every winner, there are millions and millions of non-winners (losers seems like such a harsh word). Lucky let's us hear from a few of them, people who play the impossible odds week in and week out armed only with determination and faith. It's jarring to think that the only thing separating these human beings from the wealth experienced by the few lucky winners is a few numbers picked in a correct sequence.
Lucky comes to DVD with a decent transfer of a digitally shot film. The picture, while not gorgeous, is always easy to watch and director Jeffrey Blitz, who also doubles as cameraman, does an admirable job. The 2.0 stereo audio track is crisp and always discernable.
For extras, we are presented with four deleted scenes, each a sequence featuring additional characters that did not make the final cut. These sequences are fully constructed and presented in the same quality as the main feature. The characters profiled in them are only slightly less interesting than the main protagonists and are a welcome addition to the package. The DVD also includes four trailers and a brief text biography of Jeffrey Blitz. It's a decent package, although I always prefer to hear from the director be it via an interview or (preferably) a commentary.
I enjoyed Lucky and found the people profiled in it interesting. It's a brief, focused attempt at answering some of the practical questions that most lottery players don't think about all that much. Director Blitz could have made the film a blind celebration of all things lottery, or a downer about the dangers of sudden wealth. He manages to avoid both traps and offers us instead a balanced and good humored peak into five possible outcomes of stumbling onto that magic ticket.
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