I’ll start with the theory that Steven Soderbergh; writer, cinematographer, and editor of the film, and screenwriter Jules Asner, wife of Soderbergh, made choices about what to include and not include in Logan Lucky, that nothing pointless is included. So the opening scene between Jimmy Logan and his daughter Sadie which includes a discussion about Jimmy’s favorite song, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, is important. In fact, I think it’s a thesis statement.
Logan Lucky is superficially a heist movie. The outlines of a heist movie are well-established; the brains, the crew, the plan, the execution, the result, the twist, the real result. Logan Lucky is true to the structure but the story the movie tells is not about the heist but about the community in which Jimmy Logan lives, along with his brother Clyde and his sister Mellie, and his ex-wife Bobbie Jo. Jimmy was a high school football star who left to go to LSU where he had a career-ending knee injury. Clyde enlisted in the Marines to escape Jimmy’s shadow and lost a hand and part of his arm in Iraq and is now a bartender. Mellie is a hairdresser. At the beginning of the movie Jimmy loses his construction job because he didn’t mention his knee injury when he applied, and someone saw him limping. Jimmy notes that the job requires him to drive a piece of construction machinery which is not affected by his knee but it doesn’t matter. Jimmy is let go.
Shortly thereafter Jimmy speaks to Clyde about his plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway, the site at which Jimmy was working. What is interesting about this is that Jimmy lives in West Virginia which, depending on exactly which town, looks to be about a three-hour drive from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Later, Bobbie Jo tells Jimmy that she wants to move to Lynchburg, Virginia with Sadie, where Bobbie Jo’s husband had another car dealership. Again, depending on where Jimmy lives, this could be a few hours away.
Jimmy takes work where can find it. Bobbie Jo’s husband wants to move to Lynchburg, which implies that the dealership there is more successful than the one in West Virginia. The Logans, and the other residents of the town like the Bang family and Earl, bar patron and friend to the Logans, stay in their town maybe partly because of inertia but also because it’s home. It’s the place that grounds them, that tells them who they are and what they are about. The most powerful stories are the ones we tell about ourselves. Jimmy tells Sadie that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is his favorite song because he likes the story of the song’s genesis. The song was also chosen as one of the official state songs for West Virginia. And at the talent show, Sadie decides to sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” instead of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (an inferior song, to be sure). While Sadie is singing, the rest of the parents join in because the story of the song and what it makes them believe about where they chose or have to live is encapsulated in that song. The one notable member of the audience who doesn’t sing along is Bobbie Jo. She tells herself a different story.
Jimmy and the crew rob the speedway and Jimmy returns some of the money to make an investigation pointless. The rest of the money is paid to the crew members, none of whom seem to have changed a thing about their lives. Jimmy is now working at Lowe’s, Clyde is still tending bar and Mellie is still cutting hair. The heist wasn’t to get fancy new cars or houses, it wasn’t to move to a more thriving place like Lynchburg. The heist was to make a safety net, one that is being dismantled by the federal government. (Note that Soderbergh and Asner do not make this explicit, mostly because they don’t have to.)
The real theme of Logan Lucky is about community and family and supporting each other because you recognize that you’ve all chosen to live in a place in which the only thing that makes it bearable is each other, that your neighbors understand how difficult it is and there is comfort in that. In that sense, where the Logans live is not much different from New York City where I live. (And New York City has songs which enhance its mythology.)