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Look at Me

Look at Me

Rated PG-13, 110 min. Directed by Agnès Jaoui. Starring Marilou Berry, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Agnès Jaoui, Laurent Grévill, Virginie Desarnauts, Keine Bouhiza, Grégoire Oestermann.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 13, 2005

Woe to the girl whose father, a famous author, names her Lolita. It tells us that he is a man who doesn’t consider the feelings of others and is too absorbed in his own reflections of self that he can’t foresee the consequences of naming a daughter after literature’s most famous coquette. It doesn’t help that the now 20-year-old Lolita (Berry) has grown into a chubby and unhappy young woman who hungers for her father’s attention. Look at Me is the latest dramatic group portrait from the married screenwriting team of Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (The Taste of Others); Jaoui also directs and acts, while Bacri co-stars as this film’s literary lion, Étienne Cassard. Their screenplay, which won the top writing award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, is immaculately conceived (except for its unsatisfying conclusion), although so much of the story’s impact is conveyed through the body language of the cast. Although little about the story seems surprising or spontaneous, the film’s delights lie in its acute observation of the characters and their interactions. Though Lolita yearns for her father’s affection, she is not above trading on his fame to get what she wants from others. She also enjoys the privilege that comes to her from being his daughter. Lolita ensures the desired attention from her singing teacher Sylvia (Jaoui), when she declares that her father likes the new book written by Sylvia’s husband Pierre (Grévill), an unknown author who despairs of ever writing another. Much of the film’s sly humor derives from watching Sylvia and Pierre react to their good fortune with a gradual reversal of their early positions. Fame is a drug that’s easier to scorn when it’s not yet available. Étienne, despite his self-absorption, is no monster or irresponsible parent. He has his own fears and foibles, and is also emotionally distant from his trophy wife (his second, who is nearly Lolita’s age) and five-year-old child. As presented by Berry, the lumpen Lolita is not a picture of pure virtue and victimized sadness. She, too, can be manipulative, indirect, and not fully sympathetic. In many ways it’s a very true portrait of a young woman who thinks all her problems exist because they were created by someone else. Look at Me marks the character’s shift from being the object of attention to the subject of her own dreams.
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