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Bernard Le Coq
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Lolita, plump, in her 20s, desperately wants her father's attention. He's egotistical, a famous writer and publisher with an attractive wife little older than Lolita. She's in a choir, rehearsing for a concert; she's given her father a tape, which he's yet to listen to. Sylvia, a voice coach, is willing to help the group, knowing she'll have a chance to get her husband's new novel in front of Lolita's father. For Lolita, this is a pattern: people pay attention to her to gain access to him, something she fears is the intent of Sébastien, a struggling journalist who may become her boyfriend. The night of the concert, the music may bring out everyone's feelings.Written by
A Well-Balanced Comedy of Character (and the Occasional Lack Thereof)
Agnes Jaoui's Look at Me is an almost perfectly-pitched comic character study, a nimble, amusing and thoughtful portrait of flawed people and their unlikely relationships. The principals form their attachments through a combination of accident and ambition: Lolita (Marilou Berry), the daughter of famous writer Etienne Cassard (Jean-Pierre Bacri), seeks the aid of an overworked music teacher, Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui), in rehearsing her chorale group for an up-coming performance. Sylvia has no interest in helping Lolita, whom she considers a bit of a pest, until realizing who Lolita's father is; wishing to meet the famous Cassard, who might be able to help her struggling-writer husband Pierre's (Laurent Grevill) career, Sylvia agrees to coach the ensemble. Cassard, taken with Sylvia and Pierre, helps the fledgling author; a rave article appears in a big newspaper, and Pierre is on his way to fame and fortune. Things come to a head, however, during one of those beloved French weekends in the country (where would French cinema be without weekends in the country): Cassard demonstrates himself to be a jerk by dressing-down his young, attractive wife Karine (Virginie Desarnauts) in front of everyone; Lolita realizes that her boyfriend Mathieu (Julien Baumgartner) is only interested in her because she's the daughter of the famous Cassard; Sylvia realizes what a jerk SHE is for trying to use poor Lolita, etc., The central character, Lolita, has the misfortune of being the off-spring of a famous man; she seems doomed always to exist in his shadow, to fail in every effort to gain attention for herself (to get someone to look at her). She's overweight, and chatters incessantly, and puts inordinate pressure on herself, but Agnes Jaoui has not conceived her as a poor, downtrodden victim; instead Jaoui has made her as self-absorbed as her father, as desperate for validation, creating a dynamic between them that feels wholly convincing, the friction that always exists between family members who are more alike than they would care to admit. The other important relationship is that of Sylvia to Pierre; Sylvia seems a woman of integrity, despite her rather shameless use of Lolita to gain entrée into Cassard's circle, but Pierre, after years of struggle, seems all-too-willing to toss his principles out the window in the name of success (he appears on a ridiculous talk-show, confetti raining on his head and half-naked girls grinding in his face; Sylvia can only sit on the sofa and stare in astonishment at what her husband has gotten himself into). Jaoui's intent is to delineate these characters precisely, to sketch as minutely as possible their motives, to map out their inter-relationships. And she achieves this, without apparent detriment to the narrative which moves briskly and confidently, and with the aid of several excellent performers. Marilou Berry is both sunny and gloomy as Lolita; she has her moments of self-doubt, almost of depression, but is too fundamentally driven, too stubborn, to allow her disappointments to stop her. Her father, Cassard, is played by Jean-Pierre Bacri as a man who has bought into his own hype so completely that he's forgotten he was ever anyone other than the eminent personage he's become (he's forgotten what it was like to be young and insecure like Lolita, and behaves thoughtlessly toward her). As Sylvia, Agnes Jaoui finds a sort of middle-ground between Lolita's self-doubt and Cassard's arrogance; and as her confused husband Pierre, Laurent Grevill projects the right kind of blandness alongside the dynamic Cassard, whom he idolizes but doesn't measure up to (Cassard may be a creep, but he wouldn't be caught dead on a dumb TV show). Jaoui orchestrates the comedy proficiently, eliciting performances that strike a nice balance between comic mannerism and naturalistic credibility (Bacri is especially strong, playing Cassard with an array of tellingly affected gestures while maintaining an undertone of quiet befuddlement). The one word that sums up the movie is "balance": balance between comic intention and essential believability, bitterness and reconciliation, ambition and empathy, intimacy and discretion.
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