Serenshipity: Just My Luck (2006)
By Kimber Benton & Mary "Stormer" Phillips · Oct 24, 2013
Kimber: We watched Just My Luck. It was just our luck that it was a shitty movie! Right?
Stormer: Right! Also: it’s a movie about serenshipity.
Kimber: …wait. Is that a pun on “shit” or what?
Stormer: I dunno. But I guess I just stole the title of our eventual review of Serendipity.
Kimber: Somewhere I’m sure John Cusack is crying.
Stormer: He’s holding a ghetto blaster above his head, but nothing is playing. Just the sound of his tears.
Kimber: His tears sound like Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
Stormer: My favorite part of Just My Luck is when unlucky Jake (Chris Pine) gets out of a police station and it starts to rain and then the line “it’s raining again” is ADRed into the mix as if it’s uttered by one of the extras onscreen, just to make sure we understand how unlucky Jake is by describing what’s happening to us onscreen.
Kimber: Well, I mean—
Stormer: I’m just saying that for that to happen somebody literally had to watch the rough cut of this scene and say something like, “um…I dunno if the rain makes it clear that it’s raining. Best have somebody point the rain out.”
Kimber: This is a movie that also makes poor use of Missy Pyle, which is to say it makes no use of her at all, so what did you expect?
Stormer: Thoughtfulness? Or any thoughts at all, I guess?
Kimber: My favorite part is when Jake walks by a Black Cat-branded catering truck when he sneaks into Ashley’s (Lindsay Lohan) masquerade ball. Because he is unlucky, see?
Stormer: …is it also how at the masquerade ball lucky Ashley is dressed all in white while unlucky Jake is dressed all in black? Which…are white and black symbolic of relative levels of luck and I just never knew that?
Kimber: My favorite part is when in one scene the fortune teller reads Ashley’s tarot cards and tells her that her luck pendulum is about to swing away from luck and then a couple scenes later the fortune teller is apparently is also a magician who magics the transfer of Ashley’s luck to Jake. Her name is Madame Z, and I guess the “Z” stands for “Zelf-Fulfilling Prophecy Meddler.”
Stormer: Why didn’t the color of their clothes change? How can I keep up with your excellent symbolism if you don’t spell everything out for me, Just My Luck?
Kimber: So the story is that Ashley is super-lucky and Jake super-isn’t. Ashley’s friends—Dana (Bree Turner) and Maggie (Samaire Armstrong)—spend most of the opening scenes of the film jealously explaining her luck to her, but Ashley is annoyingly oblivious about it, because this is our main character whom we’re supposed to root for. Jake, meanwhile, fucks up everything he touches, except for Katy (Makenzie Vega), the young neighbor he babysits—
Stormer: Which is how you know he isn’t a total lost cause. Well…that and the fact that he looks like Chris Pine.
Kimber: Madame Z interferes while the two make out at that masquerade ball Ashley has organized for Damon Phillips (Faizon Love) as part of her job. Damon is a record executive Jake just happens to be trying to sell on the band he manages, which is actual British band McFly appearing as themselves. Ashely’s luck gets transferred to Jake—
Stormer: Just like when Tuck got transferred from Jack to Lydia in Innerspace which I only bring up because man do I wish we were talking about that movie.
Kimber: Heh. But so Jake, now lucky, serendipitously saves Damon from getting hit by a swerving car, so Damon agrees to a meeting with McFly and eventually signs them. Meanwhile, Ashley breaks a heel, tears her dress, starts choking, all before it turns out that Antonio (Carlos Ponce), her neighbor that she set up with her boss Peggy Braden (Pyle), is actually a gigolo, which results in Ashley getting jailed and fired. Her luck gets worse from there.
Stormer: Like how after she discovers her own apartment has flooded, Ashley is forced to move into Dana and Maggie’s much less well-appointed apartment and immediately gets her hair caught in a hairdryer motor, breaks a mirror, and blows the neighborhood fuse when she tries to put the hairdryer out by throwing it in the bathtub and turning the water on. My favorite part is when, as we see the lights going out down the street, random New Yorkish voices are ADRed in saying things like “who’s the idiot?” and “nice job.”
Kimber: So you really like the ADR in this film?
Stormer: My favorite part is when Ashley, who remember earlier outright denied her serendipitous life, suddenly starts threatening the fortune teller to give her her luck back, because apparently we’re really supposed to sympathize with this charming character who we now know knew all along that she had a horseshoe up her ass.
Kimber: My favorite part is when Ashley says that her horseshoe-assed life was perfect and the fortune teller is all, “was it, really?” Because that’s the theme of the film, Mare! Do you get it?
Stormer: …I wish I didn’t?
Kimber: Madame Z tells Ashley that she’ll have to rekiss Jake to get her luck back, except because it was a masquerade ball Ashley has no idea what Jake looks like, and no clues to except that he was dressed like a hired dancer at the party, because that was the disguise he used to sneak in.
Stormer: We get a montage of Ashley kissing randoms and then doing scratch tickets to see if she’s regained her luck.
Kimber: Some of whom have hairstyles that make it clear that they’re not Chris Pine circa the filming of this movie.
Stormer: My favorite part is when Ashley, who never believed in horoscopes before, asks what hers is, and Dana reads, “your moon is in Uranus.” Because that’s so funny, right?
Kimber: Right after that she drops her disposable contact in Maggie’s cat’s cat litter, but she puts it in her eye anyways which hurts her eye somehow so she has to wear an eye patch, which I guess makes her a serenshipity pirate?
Stormer: Right after that she shits on her rich sort-of boyfriend’s (Chris Carmack) mother’s art exhibit and then gets arrested after trying to maul the final dancer from the party who just happens to be cater-waitering at the art gallery. Which scene is a good example of a couple of problems with this film. First, most of the slapstick disasters that typify Jake or Ashley’s bad luck are plotted out with the intricacies of a Final Destination franchise death but delivered with all the oomph of a paper strip of caps. They’re just horribly presented. But second, Ashley doesn’t just have bad luck now. She’s also apparently lost any and all of the confidence and charisma she had earlier, which means that most of her failures are more about stupid decisions than they are specifically due to bad luck.
Kimber: Incidentally, what’s with the film’s weird hate for modern art? The art exhibit is this weird shit pile, which, sure, dumb, but this movie is also a shit pile, so…maybe pick a better target?
Stormer: Well, but it’s also that the punchline to all of this is that she ends up in jail again, in with the same women whom already dislike her from her first arrest. Except…to get her there she can’t just get caught kissing the waiter. She has to show up in an eye patch, pretend she’s giving the waiter CPR and mouth-to-mouth, and then fall into the shit pile. After which they seriously ADR in somebody saying, “irreplaceable.”
Kimber: Plus, I also think at least part of the humor—well, “humor”—is supposed to be that this stuff is happening to Lindsay Lohan, but Lohan herself is awful in the movie. And given that this came out two years after Mean Girls, we already knew she could be funny, so this is kind of a marker of just how quickly her career imploded. In Just My Luck Lohan is already no longer “burgeoning comedic actor” but “rich starlet whom we hope you will enjoy watching fall into shit piles.”
Stormer: Exactly. Most of the “hilarity” inherent in Ashley taking over Jake’s old custodial job at a bowling alley only works if you consider Lohan outside the film. Like, “of course Lindsay Lohan would try to work a floor waxer in heels. She doesn’t get it!”
Kimber: Right. There’s nothing about the character of Ashley that makes her seem obtuse in that way, so the joke only exists if you think Lohan herself is superficial.
Stormer: In a montage soundtracked by Eels, which…Mark Oliver Everett must sell his music for fucking cheap, ‘cause it’s in everything!
Kimber: Anyways, Jake sees Ashley having a break down and decides to help her out, even though they don’t recognize one another, and gets her that bowling alley job.
Stormer: Because he—as the manager of a still unknown band, mind—is apparently rich now because the way Damon does business is to just give his artists and their support staff shit tons of money.
Kimber: I guess we are finally treated to some character development in the bowling alley scenes, though, which is basically Ashley breaking stuff until she decides to wear sneakers. Expensive sneakers, mind, but even expensive sneakers are better than heels, because women who wear heels are…lame and superficial, I guess is the message?
Stormer: …especially because the chorus of the Eels song that is playing is “now you’re really living.” Because now Ashley is really living. I guess.
Kimber: My favorite part is when Ashley has to explain how her Sidekick II works so that Jake can put his phone number into that not-product-placed-at-all product.
Stormer: Speaking of which, I’m surprised they didn’t just use McFly songs everywhere on the soundtrack.
Kimber: Can you explain this to me? So Damon signs McFly for the song “Five Colours In Her Hair” with the stipulation that they should record a followup, which their lack of is meant to provide nominal tension in Jake’s arc for the mid-part of the film where he’s the lucky one. Except…does Damon mean another song? Since they play several in the studio. Or does he mean a whole ‘nother album? It’s so confusing!
Stormer: Well, it’s equally confusing what Jake’s role is with the band. He’s their manager, I thought, but then later in the film he’s giving them creative notes and telling the band to practice things and none of that makes sense either. Like, I get that films that feature recording studios always have to kind of fudge this stuff for a non-technical audience, and it’s especially hilarious when Maggie comes in to play a song she wrote and the band just plays a fully conceived version in their style after hearing her acoustic version once. But why would Jake be directing them on how to play it? He’s not their producer. Or is he? He doesn’t sound like a producer, since most of the directions he gives are not things the band actually does. He just says things like “double time” and “tight” and “rough” because those things are things people might recognize as music-type things.
Kimber: Inside baseball, probably, but yeah: I don’t get it. Is the story maybe supposed to be like a fictional/factual thing where McFly is a band that already broke in the UK and this is the fictional story of their attempts to gain fans in the US, which means that what Damon means by “follow-up” is their actual second album? Because the song Maggie gives them appears on their actual second album, Wonderland.
Stormer: That is some calculated product placement that isn’t explained particularly well at all.
Kimber: By the way, at this point we haven’t seen Missy Pyle, by far the strongest comedic actor in the film, for like 45 minutes.
Stormer: Is it product placement when Ashley mocks the necessity of an LCD screen on the Maytag washer that she essplodes with too much soap, like technology has run amuck and is destroying our most precious household appliances?
Kimber: My favorite part is when Jake saves the day by turning off a lever on the water hose and then, when Ashley asks how he did that, says, “there’s an off button on the LCD screen.” I mean, that’s a real minor nitpick, ‘cause as he’s flailing through the soap bubbles maybe he hits the screen? But the insert shot we actually get is not of him touching the washing machine at all.
Stormer: “This LCD screen is useful and intuitive, Ashley.”
Kimber: “This LCD screen is not the gibberish you perceived it to be, Ashley!”
Stormer: “Stop knocking on Maytag, Ashley. Their LCD screen-outfitted products are totally easy to use!”
Kimber: “Hey, Ashley. You were fucking wrong about touch screens. Put down John Cusack’s ghetto blaster and your Sidekick II and buy a fucking iPhone already.”
Stormer: I dunno about an iPhone. Because my favorite part is when Damon finds out Jake doesn’t have a Blackberry and demands a worker get him one. Why not a Sidekick II? Whose products is this film pimping?
Kimber: It’s during the fallout of the Blackberry thing that Ashley overhears Damon and Jake talking about the masquerade ball, so she immediately kisses Jake to steal her luck back and refuses to kiss him again ‘cause she’s pretty selfish.
Stormer: It does bring Missy Pyle back into the film, though.
Kimber: Yeah. Peggy and Antonio are getting married; Peggy rehires Ashley and gives her a promotion, apropos of nothing; and Ashley goes back home to find out that McFly isn’t doing Maggie’s song all of the sudden because apparently Jake’s bad luck is now everybody who isn’t Ashley’s bad luck.
Stormer: I like how Maggie is such a good person that she doesn’t even mind that her friend sucks.
Kimber: Maggie and Dana are going to the McFly concert anyways, where everything is going to shit. The drummer gets caught in a trap below the stage, the bassist snaps a string that hits one of the guitarists in the eye, and everybody starts puking.
Stormer: Fortunately Ashley takes a good long look in the mirror she broke earlier and springs into action to get to the Hard Rock Cafe that the movie acts is like a Madison Square Garden-style venue.
Kimber: We do get the best joke in the film, though, when the sound tech offers to sub for the drummer because he “used to be the backup drummer for Whitesnake.”
Stormer: That’s the best intentionally funny line in the film. It is immediately followed by the best unintentionally funny line when Damon threatens Jake that if McFly doesn’t play he’ll “be lucky enough to manage a high school marching band.” Like the music industry is also the mob or something.
Kimber: I dunno. The scene after the concert goes amazing when Ashley complains to Maggie that the feelings she has “normally lead to kissing” and she can’t “not kiss him” is pretty fucking unintentionally funny. Lohan looks stoned throughout.
Stormer: “What happens when we fuck? Do we just keep passing luck back and forth? Do I stub my toe and then orgasm and then get a leg cramp and then orgasm?”
Kimber: “Does he lose his erection and then come and then hit his head and then pass out?”
Stormer: “When he is luckily having an orgasm is it unluckily too early for me?”
Kimber: “I just can’t parse this shit, Maggie! I can’t!”
Stormer: Bla bla bla Ashley and Jake have an emotionally inert and vacant scene at Grand Central Station where she has gone because she randomly decides to visit her parents just because I guess she needed a place to go for him to chase her.
Kimber: Do you think this is product placement for Grand Central? “Fuck Penn Station.”
Stormer: And then they kiss enough that the luck short circuits—you can tell because Ashley’s trains keep getting delayed and then undelayed before the board starts to spout out gibberish—because now they are better people.
Kimber: No. Don’t they give the luck to Katy?
Stormer: Who gives a fuck!
Kimber: Then they say they’re gonna get pizza, even though Katy ran off without them and she’s like 12.
Stormer: “She’ll probably luck her way home or something, right?”
Kimber: I’m glad I learned about McFly, though. Right? What an amazing story!