a critiQal film review The Lookout (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Before a tragic accident turned his life upside down, Chris (Gordon-Levitt) was a promising high school athlete. Now, to make ends meet, he gets a job as a janitor at a bank...and gets caught up in the middle of a bank heist.

876 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 22s)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to like the quirky ones, doesn’t he? After the peculiar Brick, I figured he would be in something inane and silly (similar to his “3rd Rock” run). Instead, he goes for the interesting-looking The Lookout.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on his most difficult role yet in The Lookout and delivers a performance that’s bound to surprise a lot of viewers. When the viewer is first introduced to his character, Chris Pratt, they know something’s not quite right the way he keeps repeaing “I woke up.” As the story progresses, the viewer discovers the back story: Chris was involved in a major car accident, which caused a brain injury and the partial loss of use of one of his hands.

Too many actors, given a role where their character has a disability, try to shove that fact down the viewers’ throats as much as they can (see Forrest Gump). With Gordon-Levitt, he brings the point home in a much more subtle way, letting his expressions and the storyline flesh out the back story.

His character is a bit confused a lot of the time, almost moving through a fog as he struggles to go through each rather mundane day in his life – yet he isn’t aiming for pity from the viewer, rather just setting up the scene for what is to come. It’s a much deeper performance than viewers will expect from Gordon-Levitt going in, and one that is easy to connect to.

The only real hurdle the viewer may have to relating to Gordon-Levitt’s Chris Pratt lies in the accident itself. While bad luck does play a factor, most of the blame for the accident can be squarely laid on Chris’ shoulders – so some viewers may think he deserves what happened to him.

While Gordon-Levitt’s acting does a good job of leaping this hurdle, it seems totally unneccesary. Why put up this block at all – why not just make Chris a passenger in the accident rather than the driver? That still leaves room for the sidestory with his ex-girlfriend, as she won’t want to be reminded of the accident by seeing him, whether he was at fault or not – why put the blame on him and create a hurdle the viewer has to overcome to relate to Chris, the main character of the film?

Jeff Daniels takes a lead from Gordon-Levitt, and plays his handicapped character low-key as well. Too many films use the blind guy as the butt of the jokes, letting him stumble his way through the film to as many “sight” gags as possible. It’s ridiculous, and tends to reduce blindness, a serious handicap, to nothing more than comic relief.

Jeff Daniels in The Lookout gets it right. Rather than playing it for laughs, he uses his character to get the viewer to see past the blindness. Rather than being debilitating, Daniels’ character Lewis has come to deal with it, and goes on about his daily life with much more ease than the more recently injured Chris Pratt. When Chris throws a fit of rage after being unable to find a can opener, it’s Lewis that comes in and makes dinner, not someone else.

It’s a much different portrayal of blindness than is usually seen on the silver screen, and really lets the viewer look past the surface of the character and get a glimpse at the person beneath the shades.

While Matthew Goode and Bruce McGill’s performances are decent – if uninspiring – Isla Fisher’s character seems totally out of place, albeit through no fault of her own. From the very start, her character Luvlee seems to be a plant designed to lure Chris Pratt into the heist scenario, yet later in the film, when she discovers what Goode and his cronies are planning, she seems shocked. It doesn’t make any sense, and those later scenes totally destroy the notion the viewer has gotten about her character.

On the surface, The Lookout is about a couple of criminals seeing a potential “insider” in the now muddled Chris Pratt. Digging a little deeper, it’s actually about how most of the people in Chris’ life use him for their own purposes. His dad tosses money at him, soothing his own consience without really thinking about what Chris is capable of now; Matthew Goode and his cronies see a “golden opportunity” in him – and someone that can be easily duped; Luvlee sees the high-school star he used to be – and she used to dream about, etc.

On the surface, heist flick. Underneath, a much deeper intertwining of human emotions and complex relationships, and the ultimate realization that everyone – from his parents to Goode & crew – underestimate Chris in their own ways. Only Lewis really understands Chris and can relate to him, and that bond really keeps Chris going, whether Chris realizes it or not.

Needless to say, The Lookout was surprisingly good. With unexpected performances from both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels as the backbone of the film, the story has great support from the get-go.

Despite some confusion over Isla Fisher’s character Luvlee and a bit of a hurdle to overcome when relating to main character Chris Pratt, The Lookout is definitely worth your time.

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