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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The opening scenes were hard for me to watch. Four nice young teenagers
are out cruising at night, and the driver, Chris Pratt, wants to show
his girlfriend how glorious the fireflies are. So he is speeding along
the dark country road with no headlights, more often looking at his
friends than at the road. We, the audience, know what is about to
happen and all we can do is watch.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt of TV's 'Third Rock' is good as Chris Pratt, the driver of that car. He doesn't remember much of that night, and the story picks him up 4 years later, struggling to live a somewhat normal life. He has trouble "sequencing", remembering the steps, so he has a notebook, "wake up, get dressed, eat, go to work...". He works in a bank as a janitor, and shares an apartment with a blind man Lewis (Jeff Daniels in a superb role).
The story is about a group of crooks who want to take advantage of Chris' disability and have him cooperate in robbing the bank.
An overall fine movie.
SPOILERS. That night when Chris turned on his headlights finally, with his friends pleading, he sees a large farm combine in the road and he has no time to stop. The wreck messes him up, his girlfriend lost a leg, and the other two died. Because he was so severely injured, Chris was not prosecuted. The crooks succeed at getting into the bank for the robbery, but Chris feels guilty and ends up helping defeat them. Lewis had told him, "Start at the end. If you know what the end will be, then it is easy to sequence backwards from there." So, "the end" was to kill the mean man with the shotgun. So Chris hid the money with a shotgun in the bag. When he eventually took the crooks to the site where the money was, he pointed the bag of money at the man and without even opening the bag aimed and pulled the trigger.
As many other people in the movies' industry,screenwriter Scott Frank is famous in what he does for not being bad or mediocre.It does not mean his work is extraordinary(with the exception of Out of Sight,based on a book)but,for the moment,most of his work has been solid but not too memorable.In his original screenplays(like Little Man Tate or Dead Again)or in the various adaptations he has done(like Flight of the Phoenix or Heaven's Prisoners),his screenplays balance intelligence with the most popular elements from commercial movies.But,I think that in The Lookout(which also is his amazing first movie as a director),Frank made the best screenplay of his career.The Lookout is an intelligent and amazing movie.Frank constructed the screenplay in a slow but never boring way,and the screenplay also has an excellent development of the characters.So,at the end of the movie,we care about their destinies.Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes an extraordinary work as an actor.He makes a so natural performance that he does not seem to be acting.The only fail I found on this movie is that the ending is a little bit predictable.But there's still a lot of great elements on this movie.The Lookout is an excellent film with an extraordinary main performance.Frank shows a lot of potential as a director.The Lookout is a great movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt specializes in playing "damaged" characters. In
the magnificent "Mysterious Skin," he portrayed a young man struggling
to come to terms with the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. In
"The Lookout," he plays a man coping with the mental impairment he
suffered as the result of a car accident in high school (an accident
for which he was largely responsible and which claimed the lives of two
of the other people in the car and seriously injured a third). Chris
Pratt spends most of his days just trying to keep the simplest facts of
life straight in his head. Daily activities and chores that the rest of
us take for granted become monumental tasks for Chris. Once a
promising, star hockey player in high school, Chris now works the
nightshift as a janitor in a Kansas City bank and lives with the blind
buddy (Jeff Daniels) he met while undergoing physical therapy.
One fateful night, Chris is approached by Gary Spargo, a criminal lowlife who befriends Chris in order to rope him into acting as "lookout" while he and his cronies rob the bank where he works. Thus, Chris is forced to make a serious moral choice, despite the fact that the world itself doesn't make all that much sense to him anymore.
Written and directed by Scott Frank, "The Lookout" starts off with a fascinating premise to which it remains faithful to the end. Given the raw material, the film could easily have become melodramatic, sentimental or preachy in its approach. Instead, the movie gathers the strands of its narrative with precision and care, letting us get to know Chris in the context of his family, his friends and the routines of his daily life before moving on with the story itself. Gordon-Levitt's winsome face is like a beacon drawing us into the soul of the character, making us empathize with his plight without ever asking us to feel sorry for or pity him (it's hard to believe he once played the nerdy neighbor in "Roseanne."). Like so many of us, Chris is an individual who acts foolishly and recklessly in his youth, but, unlike most of us, who can laughingly brush off such actions as mere "youthful indiscretions," Chris is forced to live with the consequences of those actions for the rest of his life. For beyond his own impairment, he also has to struggle with the guilt of knowing he caused the deaths and/or injuries of three innocent people, one of them his best friend.
In his handling of the relationship between Chris and an attractive former dancer who goes by the name of Luvlee Lemons, Frank shows an ability to write complex characters and a willingness to leave certain plot points unresolved if that makes the tale itself more believable. Like Chris, we can never get a clear fix on the type of person Luvlee truly is. Is she a coldhearted manipulator pretending to be interested in Chris just to hook him into the robbery scheme, or is she genuinely drawn to him despite her ulterior motives? That question is never answered for us or for Chris and, quite frankly, probably shouldn't be.
In addition to Gordon-Levitt, there are first-rate performances by Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode and Isla Fisher. As a novice director, Frank creates a moody, bluesy atmosphere that beautifully complements the story.
"The Lookout" is a movie about inner healing, about forgiving oneself, and about finding the goodness in one's spirit even though the mind and the body may appear hopelessly bruised and broken. There's a light of hope that shines through this movie (as it does also through "Mysterious Skin"), a light to guide all the battered souls who inhabit our world.
Our favorite movie of the year, which says something because this has been a remarkable movie year already. It's hard not to immediately adopt to hero as your hero, and Levitt deftly handles the role. His protagonist is exceptionally well-done, too, a clever seducer who finds someone he was sure would be his easy mark. There's a nice twist involving his other seducer--reprising in her somewhat similar role in a much different movie, the Wedding Crashers. And there's the unusually kind but seemingly inept policeman, easily seduced, as most would be, by the gentle and impaired young man. Jeff Daniels continues to grow (not sure I would have predicted this kind of performance from the same man who walked weak-kneed through Terms of Endearment.) But most of all, this is an excellent story--fresh, surprising and smart--very well told and acted. Not to be missed.
As a Chinese and I am actually not very interested in that so called
"independent movie", however, I like this movie very much just as the
other LEVITT's works(sorry, I know little about the director-Scott
Frank)i.e."Brick" and "Mysterious Skin".
Unfortunately, I am afraid that out of North America esp.out of the English native countries, there are few people who know about Levitt. I tried once introducing Brick to one of my friend and he showed no interesting, which hurts me a little.
However, I believe that the gold shines anyway. So let's wait and see till when will Levitt be as familiar as some super actors! I am looking forward.
Some films are like a house of cards; each part serves a purpose and
the film can't work if one of them doesn't fit. Others rely on a single
aspect of the film, where everything else just supports the focal
"The Lookout" is a part of the latter category. To be sure, all of the film's components are first-rate, but this film clearly belongs to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The young star creates a character on which the rest of the film is built upon. Without Chris Pratt, "The Lookout" would be very different. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is sensational; his Chris Pratt is one of the most tragic characters ever to hit the screen. It's a well written part, and it could have been played a number of different ways. A lesser actor could have gone for the Oscar route and played Chris as a character that begs for sympathy and tears from the audience. But "The Lookout" is not "Ordinary People," it is above all a heist film, and Gordon-Levitt understands that. Gordon-Levitt plays Chris simply as a person who has a brain injury, and writer-director Scott Frank not only focuses on the heist instead of the tragedy of the brain injury, but he utilizes this plot element to create the story.
The story is rather simple, and could easily have been made into a Disney movie (almost). Again, Scott Frank thankfully resists that temptation. Chris Pratt was a golden-boy high schooler until a car crash left him with a "moderately severe brain injury." Now he has some physical difficulties and some mental disabilities that completely alter his personality and his life. Now he goes to a school for people with disabilities and works as a janitor at a bank. Enter Gary, who seduces Chris into helping him rob a bank with the promise of giving Chris his old life back. It helps that Chris begins romancing Luvlee Lemons, one of the members of Gary's gang. However, complications ensue.
Apart from the Gordon-Levitt, "The Lookout" provides an excellent supporting cast. Matthew Goode, who broke out into the film world with his performance as an amicable, but nonetheless filthy rich snob in Woody Allen's "Match Point," does a complete change of character here. There is no doubt that Gary is a villain, but for the most part, Gary is a pretty okay guy (at least seen through Chris's eyes). Anyone who's seen the trailer knows that Gary is not a good person, but for most of the movie, Goode doesn't play Gary as a sinister criminal. It is easy to buy how Chris would become friends with Gary and get sucked into this violent scheme. Jeff Daniels is solid as Lewis, Chris's blind roommate and best friend. He doesn't service the plot very much, only to serve as the obligatory character who causes Chris to question whether or not the recent changes in his life are too good to be true. But it's kudos to Scott Frank and Jeff Daniels to create a character out of the otherwise obligatory role. Lewis is a free-spirit, and in some ways a mentor to Chris. Isla Fisher is great as the quiet Luvlee, the love interest. Other than her appearance, she bears no resemblance to her scene-stealing character in "Wedding Crashers." Scott Frank has written an intelligent script, one that is developed but doesn't turn the brain into knots by requiring the viewer to think very hard while watching it. He clearly knows what he's doing with a pen and paper, and if this film gives evidence to his skills as a director, it is safe to say that he has skills working with the camera as well. As I said before, he does this film a great service by making this film primarily a heist film, and not a tear-jerker. He has enough confidence in Chris's character and the talent of his star to allow the character to gain sympathy on its own. This makes it a better movie because it accomplishes two goals at once.
Even as brilliant as Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, he almost plays Chris too well. Maybe it's just me, but Chris Pratt was such a tragic individual that it made this movie more of a downer than it needed to be, and in some ways it hurt the "heist" atmosphere, though that doesn't really come into play until the final quarter. Maybe that's what Scott Frank intended the movie to be like, but it's hard to say. Also, there are some unanswered questions with the Luvlee character. Her presence is not played out as much as it should be. I'm being vague, yes, but I don't want to give anything away.
Overall, "The Lookout is a solid first-effort behind the chair of Scott Frank, and it should gather a lot of attention to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It's both an intriguing character study and a solid heist film that is well-worth a watch.
It's a shame these indie films don't get more exposure...this is by far
one of the best movies I've seen in the past year - but, again, I have
never seen a movie that is NOT good that has Joseph Gordon-Levitt in
it. That young man is excellent in Brick and Mysterious Skin.
All the characters are so well done - writing was excellent...and all the actors - Jeff Daniels, Isla Fisher, and Matthew Goode did a fine job of sort of "under acting"...rare these days to see in any films...but just makes the film such a jewel. (I also loved the job done by Deputy Donut - Sergio Di Tio).
I especially loved the cinematography....the locations and lighting were great - as well as the handling of the cameras...not a bunch of jumping around...a nice, still, quiet way to present the movie and let the actors go with it..instead of interfering w/the story.
In 1998, George Clooney co-starred alongside then pop-diva, Jennifer
Lopez, 'in Out of Sight,' a film by Oscar-winning director Steven
Soderbergh. The film was hailed by critical masses as one of that
year's best and received two Academy Award nominations, one of which
was for its screenplay, which was adapted from the same-titled Elmore
Leonard novel by screenwriter Scott Frank. Since then, Frank has
accumulated quite a resume one that includes writing credits for
Spielberg's critically-acclaimed box office smash, 'Minority Report,'
and the star-studded Hollywood satire, 'Get Shorty' (also first a novel
by Elmore Leonard), which was released prior to 'Out of Sight,' in
1995. However, Frank had never taken a stab behind the camera not
until 'The Lookout' and, basing his talent as a director on this
film, I wonder why.
Chris Pratt had everything. Once a teenage prodigy, Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was the star of his high school's hockey team, raised in an upper-class family, and was the apple of every girl's eye. One night, while driving with his girlfriend and two others, Pratt lost it all to a terrible car accident. Now the janitor of a small town bank, Pratt struggles daily with physical and mental consequences of that night. Feeling psychologically abandoned by his family, and without friends, Chris finds his only company in a middle-aged blind man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels), whom he shares his apartment with. Yearning for more in life a more respectable job, female companionship Chris is left vulnerable to Gary (Matthew Goode), a con whose intentions are to rob the bank at which Chris works. Pratt forms a friendship with Gary and even falls for a former-dancer named Luvlee (Isla Fisher), herself a friend of Gary's. "Whoever has the money has the power." Unfortunately for Chris, Gary is power-bent, caring not for a friendship with Chris, but rather for Chris' access to the bank's vault.
As previously acknowledged, Frank's writing ability is boundless, and 'The Lookout' will only increase the realization of that fact. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is captivating as the tormented 24-year-old, delivering a profoundly emotional performance that will sneak under your skin and tear itself out by film's end. Daniels is convincing as the blind friend, whose life experiences have evolved into wisdom, which he volunteers to Chris. Daniels is also the film's comic relief, which, actually, gives this already thrilling film some much-appreciated charm. In her brief screen time, Isla Fisher provides a supple romantic subplot and entices with her sexy character, Luvlee. Matthew Goode, as the malevolent mastermind behind the impending robbery, delivers a riveting, completely absorbing performance. In fact, don't be surprised if you find his name on the nominee list, next to Frank (for his screenplay), come Oscar time.
'The Lookout' is a compelling study about the effects of past mistakes and the consequences that come with such, enthralling because of its broken protagonist, its gripping, crime-toting side-story, its talented cast and its fine-tuned dialogue. As one of 2007's most inspired, lucidly scripted motion pictures, Scott Frank's directorial debut will soon be regarded as a classic and may do what last year's 'Little Miss Sunshine' did when February rolls around. "Whoever has the money has the power." Well, for the price of a rental or, if you're feeling over-zealous, the DVD you can experience this powerful example of a well-constructed movie.
I'll follow Joseph Gordon-Levitt wherever he chooses to go. After two knockout performances (Mysterious Skin and Brick), it was clear that he had something. With his new film The Lookout, he more or less solidifies the notion that he's one of this generation's best actors. That is, if he even needed to do a third film to prove that. But, yes, he is just as impressive here as he was in his previous two films, playing a young man who has suffered major brain trauma. He himself is responsible for the injury, having crashed his car in a silly fit of teenage romanticism, killing two of his friends and maiming his girlfriend besides what he has done to himself. Now he mainly pines for his old, normal life, and browbeats himself with guilt. He works at a small town bank as the night watchman / janitor, and his disability (and his guilt and anger) makes him the perfect target for conman Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode). Looking at it from the outside, The Lookout contains a lot of clichés, especially in the colorful supporting characters. It also shares a lot of similarities to Christopher Nolan's Memento. But the film survives for a couple of reasons. First, the actors are all just excellent. Even though inhabiting cliché characters like the kindly Midwestern cop (Sergio Di Zio), the bimbo stripper (Isla Fisher) or the wisecracking blind guy (Jeff Daniels), every actor brings his or her A game. And I wouldn't discount writer/director Scott Frank's abilities either. I mean, these people are cliché in a lot of ways, but he brings them all a step up with his smartly written dialogue. I especially like how he gives Isla Fisher's character a very human face even while simultaneously joking about how dense she is. And that's the second reason that the film turns out to be really good, that Frank focuses so much on the characters. The protagonist, Chris Pratt, is one of the more tragic characters to come out of Hollywood in recent years. The crime film / thriller elements of the film probably wouldn't be half as involving if not for characters that I really cared about. All in all, I was extremely entertained by The Lookout. It's the best film I've seen so far this year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What happens when someone takes a masterpiece like "Fargo" and replaces
the quirky, darkly comic and bleak tale with a centered story about the
trappings of youth and the delusions of immortality? Why, you end up
with a film like "The Lookout," which contrary to the opinions of so
many, really is not a clone of a film like "Memento," or for that
matter of "Fargo," although the parallels with the latter are
impossible to miss.
The story surrounds the life of Chris Pratt, a young man who on the night of his high school prom, had everything a young man could ever want: the admiration of those around him, a great car, wealthy family, beautiful girlfriend and a promising hockey career. Indeed, in a couple of scenes in the movie, there is a cocky and yet grounded demeanor to Chris that should be so familiar to everyone who ever went to high school or ever lived in a small town.
Then, on the night of that prom, as he tried to show his girlfriend the beauty of the fireflies on a stretch of road unpolluted by street lamps, Chris is involved in a car crash which kills two and leaves him scarred.
Four years after the accident, Chris tries to put the pieces of his life together, but the head injury from that night limits what he is capable of doing physically, and the memories of that night haunt him emotionally. The admired athlete succumbs to a bland life of routine in which his needs are taken care of by his parents, and his day to day challenges are overcome with the help of his blind roommate Lewis.
One night, while he is enjoying a beer at the local bar, he meets Gary, a man a bit older who explains that he once dated Chris' sister. Gary becomes the object of Chris' adulation because he is able to do things that Chris himself is unable to do: talk to women, remember things that have just happened, and ultimately relate to his surroundings. Indeed, through Gary, Chris meets Luvlee, a girl who was familiar with the guy Chris used to be.
Slowly but surely, Chris is pulled further and further away from his family and Lewis, and closer and closer to Luvlee, and through her, to Gary and his crew. This of course was planned all along, for the plans they have are to rob the bank that Chris routinely cleans.
This movie is much more straight played than Fargo, and so even though the "good guy" throws in with the bad folk, and there are some violent happenings that shake the story up, none of it is played to be darkly comic or quirky. Indeed, in a story like this, where promise has been lost in a car accident, and the fragility of life is put to the test, there is no room for Fargo-esquire subplots. The story doesn't need them.
The movie is carried along largely off the strength of acting of both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels. As the young man coming to terms with what he has become, Gordon-Levitt is brilliant- there is a simplicity, a vulnerability, indeed an almost innocent demeanor to him after the accident that lends so much credibility to what has happened to him. This contrasts so well with the few scenes in which he appears brash, cocky and so full of promise.
Daniels, as some have already suggested, pulls off the comic relief, but there is also a bitterness and jaded reserve to him that lends authenticity to his performance as well. After all, a man who's been "turned down more than the beds at the Holiday Inn" couldn't be happy go lucky all the time: his conversation with Luvlee seems in part guided by concern for Chris, and in other part resentful that he doesn't have a woman in his life.
I think there is a very real chance, after seeing Ryan Gossling nominated for "Full Nelson," that Joseph Gordon-Levitt may see an Oscar nomination: if he does, it will be well deserved for this performance. Fargo it ain't, but go in with an open mind, and prepare to be blown away...and you may just find a film that in some ways works much better than Fargo.
A film that feels much more real.
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