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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Corrupted by Fame
by David Haviland

A witty, sophisticated drama, Look at Me is  uncompromisingly aimed at the arthouse. Although this film will certainly impress its target audience, it's unlikely to cross over to the mainstream, as it doesn’t sit neatly in any particular genre. It's is a comedy without any real jokes, a drama that’s only intermittently involving, and a film that feels more like theatre. Nonetheless this is an unusually well-written drama; a view shared by the Cannes jury which awarded it the prize for best screenplay.

The central character is Lolita (Marilou Berry), a dumpy young woman torn between idolising her father Étienne (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and hating him for his indifference toward her. He is a famous writer, and his celebrity exacerbates Lolita’s feelings of inadequacy, as people have a habit of using her to get to him. One weekend, family and friends gather in Étienne’s country house, ostensibly to attend Lolita’s opera debut, but it’s clear who the real draw is.

Look at Me manages the tricky task of sticking closely to its theme, while ensuring that the characters remain believable and drive the plot. Each of them is somehow corrupted by fame, and the film explores the insidious nature of this threat. Étienne courts Pierre (Laurent Grévill), an idealistic young writer and quickly persuades him to dump his small-time publisher. As Pierre and his wife Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui) try to find a way to sack the woman who has become a close friend, their guilt turns to resentment, and they begin mistreating her, hoping to engineer an argument.

Look at Me is also about social hierarchies and argues persuasively that the put-upon choose their roles as much as their aggressors. In the opening scene, Lolita half-heartedly asks her cab driver to turn his radio down, while she struggles to hear her phone conversation. Étienne gets into the cab, and immediately bridles at the cabbie’s rude manner. Within moments, the driver is apologetic, happy to defer to Étienne’s more forceful will.

The film is co-written by Bacri and Jaoui, who both excel in the ensemble, although Marilou Berry takes the acting honours, with a touching, brittle performance. Jaoui also directs, following the success of her debut Le Gout Des Autres -- and does so with admirable good taste and reserve. Look at Me is a sweet, complex drama you’ll be thinking about for days afterwards.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(Released by Sony Pictures Classics anFd rated "PG-13" for brief language and a sexul reference.)

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