"O Lucky Man!" clearly has a number of things on its mind, but as a movie, it is a very mixed bag.
Because Mr. Anderson is much more bold and free as a director than [David] Sherwin is inventive as a social satirist, "O Lucky Man!" always promises to be much more stimulating and funny than it ever is. Staying with it through its almost three-hour running time becomes increasingly nerve-racking, like watching superimposed images that never synchronize. The result does not match the ambition of the intention. The wit is too small, too perfunctory, for the grand plan of the film and the quality of the production itself….
The score exhibits real irony about the ghastly indecencies that Sherwin so ponderously tries to ridicule. In this day and age, for those of us who have grown up with the truly epic visions of film makers like Buñuel and Chaplin, it's hardly enough for a film to qualify as "serious" or "important" by pointing out to us the excesses of capitalism, the awesomeness of technology gone mad, or even that poor people can act like beasts, just like rich people.
A more disturbing proposition by far would be a film that might suggest that rampant capitalism and technological madness could possibly succeed, by some terrible fluke, in fulfilling their promises. That is something that would force us to rethink the clichés we liberals live by. "O Lucky Man!"… is a kind of homage to those clichés.
Vincent Canby, "'O Lucky Man!'" in The New York Times (© 1973 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 14, 1973 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews. 1973–1974, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1975, p. 66).