Last year Brick scrabbled its way on to the acclaimed (by me) Cinemafool top 10, mostly on the merits of its lead actor, Joseph Gordon Levitt (the kid out of Third Rock from the Sun). At the time I said he was one to watch, so here I am watching him again, in a bizarrely empty cinema (probably down to a football match, but that doesn’t explain where all the other people were who have any semblance of intelligence.) Anyway, Levitt takes the lead in The Lookout, written and directed by newbie Scott Frank, and as he nailed moody cool in Brick, here he bangs confused frustration right on the head. See, I made that comment because Levitt’s character Chris is involved in a frightful accident and has severe head trauma. See what I did there? Clever, I know.
So poor Chris battles with memory issues, sequencing problems and an ill-timed lack of restraint. He’s gone from being super star hockey player to bumbling around, cleaning floors in a bank and living with a blind dude (Jeff Daniels - recreating The Dude). Naturally he’s not too happy a chappy. So when smooth talker Gary appears with an offer of friendship, it’s no wonder Chris lets his guard down. Could be a nice buddy-movie, but Gary is sort of after robbing a bank, and spies Chris’s current employment mixed with head-issues a perfect opportunity. Naughty Gary.
Despite the underlying bank robbery / head trauma dramas, The Lookout is a remarkably composed piece of work, ignoring a wow-bang impulse (possibly budget related) and instead going Fargo style, with slightly eccentric villains, a dysfunctional collection of heroes and lots of cold settings. Focus is largely on how Chris copes with life, with a slip into straight robbery-gone-wrong territory just towards the end. It makes for a neat little indie film, and feels like a refreshing walk in the cold outdoors compared to recent “issues-heavy” stodge.
Levitt doesn’t disappoint, still with a very cool exterior but also an essential underbelly of anger, guilt and your basic frustration. I can’t put my finger on why I like Levitt so much - as an actor he just seems completely in control but without that knowing glint folk like Mr Clooney often display (the “check me out ladies, I’m acting” look). Anyway, I’ll stop harping on about Levitt. He’s flanked by a very smooth Matthew Goode and a comedy injection of Daniels as Chris’s roomie.
On the negative, the film stinks of having been written by a guy, the only female characters being insipid, idiotic and actual lap-dancers. They are so insignificant to the plot, despite offering whiffs of interesting character development, that they fade away before the finale, never to be remembered. I’m not saying that all films written by women portray men fairly either - mostly they portray them as dashing and charming, which is of course a barefaced lie created to appease unhappy single women, which is flawed as it’ll only make them worse by giving false hope.
Um, where was I? Oh yes - The Lookout. Good, solid first for the director and another cracking performance from Levitt. Good enough to climb to a CF2, but lacking a little bit of oomph to get past that now tricky CF2 barrier.
On a side note, I watched Them this weekend, a French horror that was originally released in January. If you want to genuinely poop your pants, I would highly recommend, especially if you watch it when you’re home alone. Mind, Joseph Gordon Levitt isn’t in it, but don’t let that put you off.