Lucky Hank review: Odenkirk’s latest album is worth it

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Bob Odenkirk returns to AMC, just eight months after his final season in the network masterpiece Better call Saul, begins anxiously. As the title character Lucky Hank—a cranky, bearded, English department chair at a fictional liberal arts school called Railton College—lashes out at a defense student in his undergraduate writing workshop. Railton, “this middle-class college in this sad, forgotten town,” is an “irregular capital,” Hank observes. Word of the rant travels quickly, making him a pariah on campus. His position of power in the region is suddenly threatened.

It looks a lot like Sandra Oh’s 2021 Netflix vehicle The City– not to mention all the repetitive, nuanced talk of “de-culture” in the academy that we’ve had to absorb over the last few years. But luckily, this adaptation of Richard Russo’s 1997 novel A straight man, debuting on March 19, moves quickly past its tired premise, as well as a premiere plagued with stilted dialogue and a dissonant tonal slapstick. (Maybe we can blame his director, Peter Farrelly.) Delivered with a neat mix of vitriol and self-loathing, Hank’s diatribe mostly serves to place the wonderfully expressive Odenkirk at the center of scrutiny. observer character, if small. about an aging author wrestling with his own instability.

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Mireille Enos and Bob Odenkirk in Lucky Hank

Sergei Bachlakov – AMC

Hank’s demise accelerates a crisis that seems like slow motion. His unusual, unknown colleagues (“My book of sonnets on Jonathan Swift has grown the benchmark in early 18th-century male response poetry,” one boasts) has grown tired of his senility. His wife, Lily (a friendly Mireille Enos), a very sunny vice-principal, is accepted at the high school where she is expected to keep the peace. And their grown daughter, Julie (Olivia Scott Welch), is constantly begging for money to fund her boyfriend’s get-rich-quick schemes. Hank, meanwhile, has published just one largely forgotten novel over a 30-year career. And that was in the 90s. His decades of writing may have something to do with the fact that his late father, now close to retirement, is a nationally renowned literary critic.

This is a low story, to be sure. Some integrated voiceover narration from Odenkirk, which displays a wicked sense of humor rarely seen in Hank’s high-profile interactions, reveals that fellow singers Aaron Zelman (The Killing) and Paul Lieberstein (The Office) they had to tighten up a bit to make Russo’s book work on screen. But Lucky Hank full of small pleasures, starting with its casting. There are fun supporting characters and engaging performances, from Oscar Nuñez as a mild-mannered political dean to Suzanne Cryer as the rude colleague of many well-mannered men. There are plenty of Easter eggs for readers of modern literature. The second of two heavily reviewed episodes features George Saunders, artfully appearing as himself in a story line that casts him as a more successful contemporary is Hank’s friend. And when the show threatens to dwell too long on Hank’s quiet desperation, Zelman and Lieberstein liven up the mood by delving into the career moves and petty squabbles that ate railton’s english faculty. Hank No Shaulat least for now, but if you’re a fan of Odenkirk (who isn’t?) and campus drama is your taste for narrative engagement food, go ahead and dig in.

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