Look At Me

This film brings to the screen a wonderfully deep and nuanced story about a handful of characters who are complex and yearning, struggling to achieve what they honestly believe they want, and slightly confused when their good intentions and best efforts don't quite yield the results they were hoping for. In short, it's a slice of real life.

Jean Pierre and Virginie Desarnauts

The story centers around a handful of characters, including: Lolita, the talented and overweight daughter of a gifted and celebrated writer, Etienne; two of Lolita's boyfriends; Etienne's second and much younger, prettier wife and the five year old daughter they have together; Lolita's singing teacher, Sylvia, whose husband, Pierre, is a depressed and talented novelist; and several others who are their friends, associates, collaborators and more. In the simplest sense, the story can be seen as a study of what happens when each of these personalities interacts with Etienne as he goes through his own changes and struggles with his own faltering talent.

Marilou Berry

But there is much more to it: each of the characters is deep, individual, and absorbing. The story is knitted so very tightly that the characters interact on many levels, in many situations, working toward many different personal agendas that sometimes mesh beautifully and sometimes knock heads. Set in France, with easy-to-read English subtitles, the sets and scenery are beautiful, with wonderful imperfections that only add to the eye candy on the screen.

Keine Bouhiza as Sebas

The acting is terrific, the direction subtle but effective, and the rest of the production's detail admirably done to serve the story.

But the writing, and the thinking and the feeling that went into it, is the real star of this movie.

You want depth? There are layers and layers and layers of meaning, of nuance, of symbolism and style, none of it obtrusive, but all of it on display if you want to study this movie through more than one viewing. You want emotion? Sparks fly in many different directions as both Sylvia and Pierre try to deal first with Pierre's abject failure and later with his skyrocketing success, as young Lolita tries to overcome the pain of being neglected by her famous father and of coping with teenage angst while still fulfilling her feminine yearning for a sense of self and the comfort of being loved, and while Etienne's second wife, Karine, struggles to endure his caustic tongue and roving eye while fretting over what she fears to be her own daughter's excessive focus on food. There is even more to enjoy in this movie, from the ever-so-subtle flirtations of a young boy with a beautiful grown woman to the enigmatic relationship between Etienne and his associate, Vincent, and the intriguing conflicts Pierre inadvertently creates as he pulls away from his extremely supportive first publisher and his patient and dependent collaborator waiting for Pierre's text to complete an illustrated book.

With one or two possible exceptions, Look At Me is probably the most intricately woven film I've ever seen, entirely in a good way. It's a fascinating study of what happens when fairly ordinary people find themselves in an ongoing encounter with celebrity, power, and beauty, whether they're trying to achieve it, live with it, or forge relationships with others who have it. The characters are drawn with such crystal clarity that you'll never confuse them. And the story is refreshingly adult, which is to say complex and subtly shaded, revealing these people's behaviors and motivations to be just about equally balanced between good and bad, selfish and sensitive, loving and harsh.

If you like subtle stories about realistic characters and their honest emotions, you will love "Look At Me".

Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Agnes Jaoui
Written by Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui
Currently Playing At Laemmle's Royal Theatre
11523 Santa Monica Blvd.
(310) 477-5581

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