The Lookout ***1/2
Directed by Scott Frank
Written by Scott Frank
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Chris Pratt
Jeff Daniels as Lewis
Matthew Goode as Gary Spargo
Isla Fisher as Luvlee
Carla Gugino as Janet
Bruce McGill as Robert Pratt
Alberta Watson as Barbara Pratt
Alex Borstein as Mrs. Lange
98 Minutes(Rated R for language, some violence and sexual content).
"The Lookout" manages to go beyond the average bank heist film, and becomes a film about character. It is also more proof that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is become quite the young actor. I knew that he was talented after watching "3rd Rock from the Sun" but after his film roles in "Mysterious Skin" and "Brick," the yearly Levitt is somewhat becoming an event. Not only is he worth watching, but his films are always a little different, strange, and engrossing. "The Lookout" may not be told in edgy film noir style, or have a controversial story about two young boys who were molested, but it is still powerful and unpredictable, and a true crowd pleaser-but I bet it doesn't end up finding the audience that it deserves.
Levitt plays Chris Pratt, who in high school used to have it all-great friends, star of the hockey team, beautiful girlfriend. All of that changes when he is responsible for a car crash which ends up injuring his girlfriend and killing two of his friends. Chris survives the crash but he has serious brain damage where he loses most of his short term memory, and must write in a notepad to remember crucial things. He has a job at a bank and resides in an apartment with Lewis, a blind man who sees more in Chris than anybody who can see him does. One night at a bar Chris is approached by Gary who buys him a drink and manages to get him to be introduced to Luvlee, a former stripper who sleeps with him after raving about what he was like in the old days. It turns out that Gary is using Chris because he wants to rob the bank he works in and needs him to be the lookout in case anybody in the middle of the night comes to visit-namely Officer Ted who befriended Chris and stops by every night to give Chris some doughnuts. Chris becomes insane with the idea that whoever has money has power, but soon regrets the choices that he makes with the robbery, and has to than pay for them.
The bank robbery story is just the back drop for the Chris character, which is the basic central focus. Chris was a boy who had everything at one time and now has nothing, and Levitt does a great job at showing someone who is just trying to hold life together again, and to capture a single ounce of his past again. Levitt has been, over the last two years, playing characters that are all roughly the same age but have had pasts that end up effecting their actions in the present, only to extremes. It is almost unrealistic everyone he plays, because the situations that he gets himself into are pretty impossible to happen, but he does it in such a natural way that the extreme ends up seeming like the norm. He works well with a supporting cast of gold as well, with Matthew Goode as the nasty villain, Jeff Daniels who is long over due for an Oscar, and Isla Fisher(very nice!) who is underused and ends up disappearing about halfway through, sadly.
This is the directorial debut of Scott Frank who directs as though he's been doing it for years. Every scene is just crisp with intrigue and every scene ends up becoming crucial. Perhaps my only problem is that Frank ends up padding the script with far too much foreshadowing. It is one of those instances where everything that happens does for a reason. For example, Chris ends up looking in his father's gun rack and comments on how nice it is(I wonder if this gun will play an important part in a later scene. . .). While this does make one consider all of the scenes in the past later on in the film, it makes things a little too pat and happy. But all in all, 'The Lookout" is a clear crowd pleaser, and should hopefully find its audience. It is a character drama with the bank heist used as a way to appeal to more viewers, but who cares because that is a story as interesting as the one about Chris. Do not classify "The Lookout" as an "art film" because you will be missing out on one great time, and once you are done you'll want to invest in the other Levitt films.