I’ve heard it said that two out of three ain’t bad, and in most cases I’d believe it. With films, however, if we’re talking three-act structure, having two solid acts and one flimsy one ain’t good either. And that’s where my mind is dancing with screenwriter-turned-director Scott Frank’s feature film “The Lookout.”
Meet Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Like most people, he wakes up in the morning and showers with soap. Unlike most people, however, relating the former information is not as easy for Chris as it just was for me, as Chris was involved in a car accident that caused him severe head injury, to the point where his mind has trouble sequencing events, or making logical sense of things. Still, Chris is perservering, improving daily, with the help of his blind roommate and caretaker Lewis (Jeff Daniels). Aspiring to work as a teller at the bank where he currently works as an overnight janitor, Chris is selected by the unsavory Gary (Matthew Goode), who feels he can use Chris’s mental issues to help him rob said bank. Oh, and there’s a girl name Luvlee (Isla Fisher), who assists in luring Chris into Gary’s friendship by being both insanely hot and convincingly adoring… even if she comes off as a dim bulb in more than a few moments.
As you can see by the synopsis, the dirty deets are simply that Chris is being set-up to be the fall-guy. The beginning of the film does an amazing job of setting up the character of Chris and his world, and even introducing the scenario with Gary and Luvlee. The problem is that by the time we accept that Chris will wind up being involved with the robbery, we want to just get to robbery. In fact, the final robbery / act is brilliantly suspenseful, even darkly comic, but there’s a very large portion of the middle of the film that drags getting there. To say I started to tune out mid-way through is an understatement. Had I not been focused in a theater, I may’ve been convinced to pause the film and go do something else, which would be a shame because, again, the final act is wonderful.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a stellar job playing Chris Pratt, being both respectful in his portrayal and completely convincing without any over-the-top “I want an Academy Award for playing a difficult character” nonsense. To say this is the highlight of his career would be speaking too soon, because I’m convinced he’s going to continue to grow and really blow us away one day. Instead I’ll say that this is one of his best performances, and his fans and critics alike may find themselves on the same side of the fence.
All around the cast is solid, and Matthew Goode does charmingly evil like no one’s business, but the true scene-stealer of this film is Jeff Daniels. We all know the man is a talent, and his Lewis is caring while being bitingly witty and hilarious. Every time he’s on-screen in “The Lookout,” he finds a way to own it. Sometimes I felt bad for every else, as they’re doing exceptional jobs as well, but Daniels is hoarding the audience-friendly glory.
Do I think people should see this film? Yes, I do think it is worthy of your time, simply because of the brilliant acting and the first and final acts but… the middle of the film feels like an endurance challenge. If you can put aside your short-attention span and allow yourself to believe that the end will be worth it, then you’ll probably walk away with a positive vibe for “The Lookout.”