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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Film Review: Fine Performances All There is to See in ' The Lookout '

Review by Noah Mallin

Screenwriter Scott Frank's debut in the director's chair The Lookout suffers, oddly enough, from a screenplay (by Frank) that isn't as clever as it thinks it is and leisurely editing by Jill Savitt. On the plus side of the ledger are some excellent performances all around, most notably by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who seems just a few roles away from a breakthrough.

Gordon-Levitt plays a self-satisfied high school jock who plows his convertible into a combine through sheer lunkheaded recklessness killing two friends and badly wounding his pretty girlfriend. The accident leaves him with one of those brain injuries beloved by noir screenwriters and rare anywhere else. He has difficulty remembering things and has particular trouble with causality. Jeff Daniels plays the blind man who lives with him in a sort of disabled persons half-way home. Daniels is a welcome presence, finding just the right amount of wryness and concern. Carla Gugino shows up all to briefly as a counselor.

As the film unspools Gordon-Levitt becomes entangled in a far-fetched bank-robbery scheme by creepy Matthew Goode and naively sexy Isla Fisher. It's one of the more interesting underdeveloped points that through the eyes of these characters who remember him from high school, Gordon-Levitt seems like something of a conceited asshole before the unintentional lobotomy.

Unfortunately this turns out to be no Memento despite Gordon-Levitt's habit of labelling things and making notes to himself. Rather it takes on the quality of an afterschool special designed to encourage people who've suffered brain trauma to engage themselves in seedy neo-noir situations as a means of therapy.

The aforementioned editing makes things worse by squelching whatever surprise and tension there is -- the film itself seems to be in a sort of stupor. Here's hoping that Gordon-Levitt, like his character, finds a better class of people to run with next time.

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