Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Movie Review: The Lookout

The Lookout (2007) 9/10
Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was a high school golden boy until a devastating car accident left him with Traumatic Brain Injury and two friends dead. Now he lives with a blind friend (Jeff Daniels) he met in rehab, and tries to learn how to remember what he did today. When a guy in a bar (Matthew Goode) remembers him from high school and befriends him, Chris finds himself caught up in a bank robbery scheme.

There's several different movies going on here. There's a film noir; an innocent guy getting pulled into crime that heads towards a frightening and dark end. There's a character study; a fairly extraordinary one, cementing Joseph Gordon-Levitt's position as probably the most interesting young actor to watch these days. His Chris is never a caricature, he never blubbers or twitches his way through the role of a brain-injured young man struggling to find a self he recognizes inside a set of limitations he never imagined. Chris simply becomes more interesting every moment he's on-screen (which is most of the movie). He is revealed in small things and large, in Thanksgiving with his family and in conversations with co-workers, and most especially in trying to find friendship with the set of hoodlums who manipulate him.

Jeff Daniels is also rich as Lewis, Chris's friend and roommate. I love Daniels every time I see him; I'm always surprised by his depth and solidity. Which, why am I still surprised? Good question; more like I'm taken with his presence, he seems so real and true to himself I find myself catching my breath. This is Gordon-Levitt's show without question, but Daniels is vital; the rest of the cast—Goode, Isla Fiscer, Carla Gugino, et al—are just serviceable, so without a second excellent actor I don't think the movie would have really worked.

The third movie is the story about sequencing. "I wake up. I take a shower. With soap." Throughout the film, Chris works on the narrative of a day, tries to remember how to put things in order. At the same time, he's trying to put his life in order. Lewis (Daniels) tells him to do it like a story, instead of a list: Try "Once upon a time, I woke up," he suggests. And Chris needs to do that, he needs to find the story of his life, to figure out his own narrative. In the middle of Chris's narrative is a break, an accident, a change, a loss, and enormous guilt. The movie opens with this accident, and we see Chris's culpability, not just because he caused an accident, but how he caused it. Chris was a spoiled and cocky boy doing the sort of things with cars that spoiled and cocky boys do. So in asking himself what his story is, he has to struggle with who he was, and what he did, as well as who he is now.

We don't know all the pieces, not right away, and some not until the very end. Chris doesn't know all the pieces either, and so it feels right that we should be confused in the way that Chris is confused. Not in a Memento sort of way, but gently, organically. There's no Big Reveal, but there are revelations.

For all the crime drama, the guns and the really scary stuff, The Lookout is basically a quiet and subtle movie. It's about waking up, and taking a shower. With soap. And it works.

(I post. I cross-post. With soap.)