Lucy is the kind of movie a lot of people don’t like. On the surface, it appears to be a self-important, cliche-ridden, mumbo jumbo-filled pastiche of a film as ridiculous in intention and execution as a “gourmet” donut. Don’t worry. I’m not going to make an argument that it’s more than that on some deeper level. It’s not. It’s religiously illogical, and that illogic is made even more apparent by the pseudo-science undergirding its narrative. Lucy is ridiculous.
I also think Lucy is a terrifically fun film though. Lucy is most like a late night spent with friends over drinks during which the conversation flows between which is your favorite Jean Claude van Damme movie and the meaning of life. Lucy takes itself just seriously enough to know how to have a good time, and it wants you to have a good time too.
Watching Lucy, you may be tempted to think the film is unaware of how cliched it is, but consider the filmmaking craft on display in just the opening scene. Our heroine, Lucy, is tricked into delivering a package to a violent mobster. As she waits anxiously in the lobby of his building, the film cuts to shots of cheetahs hunting on the Savannah. As Lucy is finally taken hostage by the men, the cheetahs catch their prey. That’s as cliched a way to simultaneously show that people are just like animals and to heighten tension as you can imagine, right? But consider also that our heroine is destined to imbibe the drugs that will allow her to dispense with these thugs with a flick of her finger, and she is the one wearing a cheetah print jacket in the scene. Very subtly, Lucy suggests that Lucy is the predator here, and these thugs are the prey.
Or consider the scenes when Lucy calls her mother—this is easily one of the most unexpected and touching scenes I’ve seen in a film this year, and I won’t spoil its content for you—and when Morgan Freeman’s scientist first learns of Lucy’s new-found abilities, a moment in which his life’s work has been both confirmed and transcended all at once. In both cases, the film slows down to let these actors, Scarlet Johannson and Morgan Freeman, really act, to communicate subtle, deep emotions with only their faces. Lucy, for all it’s glitter and gloss, knows that these human moments are the ones that make the film, and it gives them room to ripen and breathe.
Don’t be distracted by the pseudo-science, the car chases, and the fight scene, entertaining though they may be. Don’t even worry too much about the meaningless philosophy mouthed by the characters throughout the film. The film treats all of these things lightly. It loves them in a giddy way. They’re there to tickle you, to make you laugh.
Lucy cares much more about people connecting with one another. Lucy believes any meaning in life is found in those connections and in the ‘love you’s,’ the ‘thank you’s,’ and the kisses that pass between them. Yes, behind all of Lucy‘s cliches, there’s yet another cliche, but it’s one I’m happy to get behind, too.
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