Remember that kid from "Third Rock from the Sun"? It's okay if you don't. Most people don't, but maybe you should start remembering him. Late last year, I watched a little noir film called Brick. Even though the movie wasn't spectacular, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's starring role was pretty darn impressive. And in The Lookout, he's moved right past "pretty darn impressive" straight to damn impressive--an actor who disappeared for a little while just to return as a strong indie actor coming into his own.
Gordon-Levitt stars as Chris Pratt, the once-upon-a-time popular guy whose life has been turned upside down due to a horrible car accident. Now, four years later, Pratt lives in a run-down apartment with his blind roommate Lewis (Jeff Daniels) and, because of a brain injury, must write down everything he wants to remember on a little notepad. Struggling every day, Pratt goes through the motions--attending classes to help his sequencing, meeting with his counselor, and working as a janitor at a small out-of-the-way bank. It's because of this job that he's pursued by the smooth-talking Gary (Matthew Goode) to help rob that little bank. Pratt's life is a shell of what it once was, so with promises of a better life, and a little loving from the cute Luvlee (Isla Fisher), he easily gives into the plan.
My short synopsis does this intriguing story no justice. The Lookout is a cool blend of crime drama and intelligent thriller. It's a story about coming to terms with your life and moving on from your past. Interestingly, I could relate to Chris Pratt, and I think that's exactly what draws you into the story--the utter humanity (or lack thereof) of these characters.
If I'd never seen Good Night, and Good Luck, I would've been pleasantly surprised by Jeff Daniels' dramatic turn in this movie, but I have seen Good Night, and Good Luck, so I was simply pleased to see Daniels' performance equally as strong in The Lookout. He plays the sidekick/mentor Lewis with a nice sarcastic air that helps lighten the dark brooding of Gordon-Levitt's Chris. Lewis always mentions the elephant in the room, and the audience can find relief in his candidness.
Kudos to the entire cast for incredible performances. Isla Fisher holds onto her cuteness from Wedding Crashers, but her subdued need to be important is what really sells Luvlee as a character who might actually care. Sergio Di Zio is also great as the bumbling deputy with a definite surprise up his sleeve, but Matthew Goode stood out as my favorite. His spot-on American accent is smooth and seductive. From the moment Gary acknowledges Chris in a local bar, he loses all chances of saying no to this man. In stark contrast to all the angst and vulnerability Chris holds, Gary wears his confidence and power like a badge. Even his use of an inhaler doesn't lessen his strength, instead it adds to it, making him seem more attainable. His friendly attitude towards Chris is completely lost on the audience, we always see him for who he is, but Chris is dying for a connection and never suspects anything until he's knee-deep in Gary's world.
Scott Frank has written some great screenplays--Little Man Tate, Out of Sight to name a couple--and The Lookout shows that he not only has writing chops but directing chops too. Though there are really no surprise twists or even a shocking ending, The Lookout isn't about an end; it's about the means. A film whose heart lies in the story, not in the conclusion.