For the past month TM has been let loose again on the world of movies, and has been busy gobbling up, Godzilla-like, movies and TV shows on DVD and screen. Last night, the tired but happy DVD player accepted a disc from Blockbuster for “The Lookout“.
Ever since TM read the New York Times review of “The Lookout” during his enforced exile in Barbados earlier this year, he had been wanting to catch up with it when it came out on home video. As always, TM’s amazing sense of sniffing out movies stood him in good stead. Seriously.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Chris Pratt, high school hockey star and scion of a rich family who, driving without lights to impress his girlfriend on the way to prom night, is involved in an accident which kills his two other copassengers, maims his girlfriend and leaves him with a short-term memory loss. Not wanting to take his family’s help, perhaps hoping to expiate himself and atone for his guilt, he tries to get back on to his feet while working as a night janitor at a local farming bank and sharing accomodation with blind Jeff Daniels. That’s when he is befriended by the sinister Matthew Goode, who it turns out, wants his help to rob the bank.
Director Frank is a scriptwriter with an impressive record (Dead Again, Out Of Sight, Get Shorty, Minority Report) and this is his debut. Not surprisingly, the script is crackling especially as it picks up speed in the second half during the planning and execution of the heist. There is a slow inevitability of Gordon-Levitt’s redemption, but which gets tinged with death and loss. Set in winter at a remote farming community, shot in deep sombre colors, the overhanging gloom never goes away. And Gordon-Levitt is excellent at depicting the burden of guilt that he carries. Frank’s screenplay also shows the comunity and connections a small town creates. Little portraits, like the bank manager Mr. Tuttle, the teller Mrs. Lange, the killer Bone or the loan officer Reuben, are pithy but complete for their small roles. Of the major characters, Matthew Goode gets most of Frank’s attention, and his relationship with Gordon-Levitt is what the movie is all about. There is a touch of David Mamet in the set up, as Goode sweet talks and seduces Gordon-Levitt. Isla Fisher is Gordon-Levitt’s newfound girlfriend, with a stage monicker of Luvlee Lemmons (she isn’t Punjabi), and her short presence denies a female counterpoint the movie’s all male principal cast needs. Similarly underwritten is Jeff Daniel’s role, as Gordon-Levitt’s blind housemate. Daniels has some great one-liners (at Thanksgiving in the Pratt family mansion, he gets off the car, sniffs and announces “I smell money.” and later on joshes an unimpressed young female relative – “What do you call a mushroom that goes to a bar and buys everyone a drink? Fungi”) and it would have been interesting to explore his character some more. He and Fisher share a great scene at his apartment, when he senses what she is after. Daniels has a lot of fun with his role – overbearing, funny, heartbreaking and randy – like he was in Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid And The Whale”. Investing more in him would have been worth the while.
But these are minor complaints. Gordon-Levitt scores again after the high-school noir “Brick“, another overlooked (but not as good) movie. The direction is assured and refreshingly old-school. Shadows of other movies can be seen in some dark corners – Memento (short term memory loss), The Last Picture Show (high school sports heroes in small towns) , Fargo (killers in the snow) – but the familiarity doesn’t turn into deja-vu.
Chris Pratt and his girlfriend Kelly feel the thrill, moments before the accident that will change his life forever.
Chris gets a new friend, Gary Spargo, as the bartender is about to stiff him over the change.
Pratt and Lewis (Jeff Daniels) apply for a loan for their restaurant “Lew’s Your Lunch”
Chris and Lewis have a ‘gimps day out’ at a local diner.