Monday, September 03, 2007

 

First forgive yourself


By Edward Copeland
Acting truly is a wondrous talent, a gift that can raise an otherwise marginal film to a higher level as is the case with The Lookout.


Screenwriter Scott Frank (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report) makes his directing debut with The Lookout from his own original script and while both his writing and directing bring positive elements to the film, much of the credit for the film's success really belongs to its cast, particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role of Chris Pratt.

Chris is a young man struggling with the after-effects of a horrifying car crash that left him with a traumatic brain injury and a large dose of guilt. Gordon-Levitt could have easily overplayed the role of a man forced to use notes to keep his mind on track but instead the actor goes the other direction and embraces stillness and quiet in the role. Eschewing histrionics helps prevent The Lookout from turning into a gimmick picture and allows the viewer to more fully invest in Chris' plight.

Unfortunately, that plight includes becoming involved in a plot to rob the bank where he does custodial work. The crime angle threatens to derail what until then is simply a compelling character study, but the strength of Gordon-Levitt and his co-stars manage to navigate the film past this potential plot bump. In particular, the two actors whose support proves incalculable are Jeff Daniels and Matthew Goode.

Daniels plays the blind burnout with whom Chris lives and who seems to have a far-better ability to see through people and things than the sighted Chris does.

Goode is a revelation. Watching the film, I had no idea who he was, playing the shady Gary who lures Chris into the bank plot. It wasn't until I watched some of the DVD's extras that I realized Goode was not only British but was the same actor who played Jonathan Rhys Meyers' brother-in-law and Scarlett Johansson's original boyfriend in Match Point. He didn't make much of an impression on me in Woody Allen's film, but Goode truly announces himself as someone to watch in The Lookout.

Still, this is Gordon-Levitt's film. He sure has come a long way from his work as a child actor and on TV's silly comedy 3rd Rock From the Sun, but The Lookout definitely proves that he is one of our finest young actors.


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Comments:
Some excellent observations in your post. I especially agree that a great performance by an actor in a sub-par movie can make all the difference. A personal favorite of mine I think illustrates the point quite well - Gary Oldman's brilliant work in Romeo is Bleeding, an overly ambitious Tarantino knockoff that doesn't quite gel.
I'm looking forward to watching The Lookout. From your description it would appear that Gordon-Levitt's performance makes this movie a must-see.
 
I will definately have to watch this. I think Gordon-Levitt is going to have an interesting career. Have you seen him in Brick or Mysterious Skin I loved Brick so much I had to buy it and force all my friend to see it.
 
I didn't see Brick, but I did see Mysterious Skin where I thought he was much better than the film deserved.
 
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