I recall seeing Just My Luck when it came out in 2006. If I’m being honest, Chris Pine is one of my favorite actors (hence one of the reasons why I love this movie so much), and has been ever since I saw him in the sequel to The Princess Diaries. He and Lindsay Lohan star in this particular romantic comedy, and honestly, it was a treasure to rediscover as I haven’t seen it since it came out.
I love a good romance story, especially when it has a creative angle; in this case, that being the intervention of luck into Ashley’s (Lohan) and Jake’s (Pine) lives. Ashley has always been incredibly fortunate in life, the rain literally turning into sunshine as she walks out the door. Jake is the complete opposite; he’s acquainted with jail, though not intentionally; and even when he thinks he’s struck luck when he finds some cash, it contains dog poop. The guy can’t just catch a break. The luck in their lives is so incredibly different, and when their paths cross, Ashley’s luck is transferred to Jake through a kiss at a masquerade ball, and the rest is history as Ashley is humbled by bad luck and Jake shares his newfound good luck with everyone around him, in a way Ashley never did, with an inevitable romance in the making. Ashley initially fights her bad luck by trying to retrieve her good luck, kissing several men that were dancers at the ball (as Jake was dressed as a dancer), but when she finally accepts her bad luck, she discovers that Jake is the one she kissed (and by the film’s end, she’s fallen in love with him) and has to make a big decision—take her luck back, or let it go?
The Romantic Build-Up
What I find interesting about the romantic aspect of Jake’s and Ashley’s developing relationship is the fact that it’s not obvious right away. They’re very different people, and don’t appear to have all that much in common. It initially seems more likely that the kiss at the masquerade ball would be left at just that, but there is a detectable spark as their lips meet. Unfortunately, neither of them know who the other really is as names aren’t exchanged and faces are partially covered by masks. Hence, the build-up to their budding romance is gradual. It’s part of the draw of the film; in a way, it’s like a will-they, won’t-they situation as they run into each other several times afterwards without knowing they’ve met before.
With their roles now reversed, in that Ashley is plagued by one misfortune after another while Jake is striking it lucky at every turn, it changes them both as people, and makes them a better match. Ashely is humbled as she works hard in another way, and must accept that not everything in life will come to her just like that. She has to learn that sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you want it to, and she has to learn to accept and be okay with that; just because something doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean it never will, or that it won’t work out in some other way.
Jake, having been where Ashley now is, is humble about his beginnings and doesn’t let his new lifestyle as his now paid job as the manager of up and coming band McFly, or the perks (like an awesome apartment) that come with it get to his head. He doesn’t forget where he comes from as a former custodian at a bowling alley, and he still makes time for Katy, a little girl who formerly lived down the hall from him at his old run-down apartment complex, helping both her and her grandmother. Both Jake and Ashley got what they needed at the right time, and with Ashley down on her luck, she can better relate to Jake’s background and they now have something to connect over. In one of my favorite moments between them, Jake sweetly gives her his backpack, filled with anything and everything needed for an emergency. Jake was prepared for anything, and the backpack was like his lifeline. Seeing that Ashley now needs it more than he does, he passes it on to her. It really shows how good of a guy he is; he wants to help wherever he can, especially those that are going through a rough patch.
Anyway, not long after the masquerade ball, Jake finds Ashley having something of a meltdown in a diner, and he helps her get another job, as she’s been fired from the public relations firm she previously worked for. As it turns out, she takes over Jake’s old custodian job at the bowling alley, and while it isn’t the most glamorous gig, it was something she needed as part of the journey she was on, and, well, any job pays the bills.
With her now working at the bowling alley, the two see each other more often as Jake and his band still hang out there from time to time, and one night after work, Jake saves her from a massive rainstorm (and from getting hit by lightning thanks to an umbrella), and he takes her to his apartment so she can dry off. Even when she makes a mess of his laundry room, bubbles from his washer everywhere, the two laugh about it. Instead of freaking out about possibly breaking the machine or dreading the impending clean-up, the two take a moment to just laugh, and Ashley declares she gives up—she is a “pathetic disaster,” she doesn’t care anymore, and it feels great. Then, she promptly slides down the machine she’s leaning against and hits the floor. Jake smiles and chuckles, revealing that he gave up years ago and it’s his “secret to happiness.” That moment is also one of my favorites in the film—sometimes life is crazy, things go wrong, and it’s easier to just laugh about it.
Jake and Ashley have a bit of a hiccup in their budding relationship when she finally realizes that Jake is the one she kissed at the ball, and she kisses him again to take her luck back. However, she has second thoughts after she finds out that her friend Maggie’s song will no longer be performed at the McFly concert, and she realizes that Jake put her luck to better use than she ever did.
She kisses him again to restore his good luck, as without it, Jake has nearly lost his job and the band nearly canceled their concert due to one of their members gone missing. Ashley later takes off, intending to visit her parents for a while, as she realizes that, while she loves Jake, she doesn’t want to risk him losing his good luck each time they kissed, and she couldn’t be with him and not kiss him. Ashley changed dramatically over the course of the film; by the end, she’d made the decision to put everyone else first. Yet, Jake isn’t having it. Good luck, bad luck, or no luck, he loves her, and he doesn’t care if it means he’ll lose his luck. He’s lived without it before, but there’s a difference this time—he and Ashley would be together, and as long as they have each other, love trumps luck any day.
Their love is a beautiful story that makes sense. They have a spark with that first kiss, but their chemistry is built up over time as they get to know one another and spend more time together. Neither of them were necessarily looking for love; instead, they were looking for luck. However, that luck brought them love, which is something they needed more.
Ashley undergoes the most dramatic character development in this film. She’s confident, successful, and always gets her way when the film begins. She’s blessed by infinite amounts of good luck; a day in her life just couldn’t be bad. It’s no wonder she was desperate to retrieve the good luck she’d lost following her kiss with Jake; alongside her friends Maggie and Dana, she tracks down the dancers from the party and kisses them (even one who had just gotten married, though Ashley was too intent on retrieving her luck to consider the consequences of kissing a man on his wedding day). However, she doesn’t realize that Jake snuck into the party, and hence isn’t on the list she’s using to track down the men.
Her mission to find the man she kissed is borderline obsessive. She’s convinced that she can’t live without her good luck. Granted, following the loss of her luck, she experiences misfortunes right off the bat. Getting arrested, losing her job, her apartment wrecked and deemed unlivable—that all happened suddenly and it was a lot for Ashley to take. It’s a lot for anyone to take. Yet, as the film progresses, it makes sense. Ashley had to go through all those hardships so she could learn and grow as a person, and so her luck could be used to help other people out in the world—namely Jake, Katy, the members of McFly, and several others. Because of her luck, Jake and the band members found great success at just the right time, as the band was ready to call it quits and return home. Jake extends that luck to everyone he meets, in a way Ashley never did, or even considered. She naively believed that she wasn’t any different for being so lucky; she thought nothing of it. That is, until she lost it.
I believe it was a combination of living with her friends, working in the bowling alley, and getting to know Jake that inspired Ashley. She changed, becoming more selfless and wise, and her perspective changed greatly. Even though Maggie had to be devastated that her song wouldn’t be used, she wasn’t bitter. Maggie was more optimistic than anything, throughout the film. Just because something didn’t work out the first time, it didn’t mean there weren’t opportunities elsewhere—Maggie truly believed that, and it had an impact on Ashley.
The bowling alley custodian job isn’t Ashley’s idea of a dream job, but she takes it anyway, and it turns out to be a good thing. She learns to do chores (including cleaning the men’s bathroom) and how to fix things, and working a hard job teaches her important life lessons about staying humble and not taking things for granted. She also overcomes her own obstacles—she finds a way to clean the bathrooms without gagging, and she takes on her tasks despite having used gum fall into her mouth as she’s cleaning under the tables, for instance. Instead of giving up, she only works harder, and she learns what not to do to avoid such incidents along the way.
Jake sympathizing and showing her kindness also obviously meant a lot to Ashley. It’s always nice when someone offers a hand, especially during rough times. It makes Ashley feel less alone and it gives her someone to really relate to, as Jake’s been where she is now. She learns a lot from him in that regard; he’s good for her that way, and it’s part of what makes them so good for each other. Ashley survived her rough patch in one piece, and Jake was a big part of that.
Ultimately, all these experiences make Ashley a better person. Not just for herself, but for those around her. She’s more selfless and understanding, especially to people from different walks of life that haven’t had the luck she has, and having experiences she never even dreamed of—like the bowling alley—showed her that she could make it through anything, as long as she kept the faith and believed in herself.
Luck may have been a part of the film, but it ultimately wasn’t the main lesson. At least, not to me. Ashley’s character development and the developing love story between her and Jake were my favorite parts of the film.
As it turns out, Ashley didn’t need her good luck to survive. Between her friends, Jake, and her own strength and willpower, she was really the luckiest person in the world. She learned to see the important parts of life, which is why she nearly gave up Jake (until he came after her, of course), wanting him to be successful and use the luck he’d gotten from her to the best of his ability. However, Jake loved her more than his good luck, and that meant a lot to Ashley—and honestly, it was an important part of the story. Losing her luck was the best thing to ever happen to Ashley, because she found so much more that made her life wonderful in ways that really mattered.