Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (Magnolia Pictures)

There’s a cinema genre called Geezer Quirk.
It stars Jeff Bridges or Mickey Rourke.
It’s about a sweet old crotchety guy
Facing death with a humorous, jaundiced eye.

Poetry aside, a group of films have cropped up where older gents look back on their lives—and ahead to their inevitable ends—with a seasoned, bittersweet yet manly shrug. Although the fellas may be at the end of their rope, people are drawn to these loveable cusses and have time to chew the fat or get stoned with them all day long. These old-timers always, always connect with younger women as well. What hot chick isn’t drawn to a man with turkey neck three times her age?

Lucky is the latest addition to the indulgent Geezer Quirk canon, and it’s one of the better ones. Roguish, gnarled Harry Dean Stanton (recently deceased at 91) brings piss and vinegar to the movie, and a stark desert landscape blasted with sunlight invites contemplation of mortality. These two strong presences add personality and texture to an essentially plotless enterprise awash in celebrations of kooky oddballdom and insider references to Stanton’s movie career.

Lucky, the film’s title character, lives alone in a battered old house at the edge of a small, sparsely populated Western town. He does morning exercises in his underwear, smokes his beloved cigarettes, talks back to game shows on TV, and makes his rounds to the grocery store, café, and local bar. It’s a simple life, although one with mobility and dignity intact. But a morning fall leaves Lucky rattled. Soon he’s reaching out to others in ways he and they don’t expect. What has life meant for Lucky? And what will the end mean?

A crowd of small-town eccentrics are on hand to help Lucky work through these existential questions, with veteran actors enjoying the chance to do more interesting character work than usual. Ed Begley Jr. is the best of the bunch as a sympathetic doctor forcing Lucky to face his odds. On the other hand, an odd assortment of cravats make David Lynch resemble a plump country parson in a Jane Austen movie; the veteran director outwears his welcome as a barfly/obsessive who wants to leave his estate to a lost pet tortoise called President Roosevelt.

Many characters speechify a little too wondrously on life and death, enduring sarcastic challenges from the cynical Lucky. But the movie casts a wordless spell when it sticks with the old man alone, doggedly pursuing his routine and observing the world. Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt works wonders with light, like having Lucky step into the sunshine as though he’s being teleported to another planet or placing him at the center of a dive-bar chiaroscuro out of a Rembrandt.

Finally there’s Harry Dean Stanton, stubborn and tough as the loner he plays, winning our hearts with unexpected vulnerability. When a woman from his local bodega invites Lucky to a fiesta, he tentatively sings in Spanish, with his voice gaining strength as he joins a mariachi band. It’s a lovely, soulful moment, and one that reminds us that there’s life in the old Geezer Quirk genre yet.

Directed by John Carroll Lynch
Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja
Released by Magnolia Pictures
USA. 88 min. Not rated
With Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., and Tom Skerritt