MOVIE: The Lookout (2007)

A HUGE thank you to reader Lorraine for recommending this movie (see comments from this post), which I probably never would’ve known about had she not suggested it. I LOVED this film, so hip, hip, hooray for readers who take the time to tell me about things I might’ve missed. Yay!

This is an extremely well-written and thoughtful film, with a suspenseful heist story at its root to keep things moving along. It opens with two teenaged couples driving fast in their car on prom night, loving life and each other, and full of expectations and hopes for the future. From the first few moments of the film — this scene spilling over with their unabashed joy for life — you know something pretty terrible is going to happen. And it does. Fast-forward to about ten years later and the car’s driver, Chris Pratt (Joseph Gorden-Levitt), is now an adult struggling with brain damage he attained that fateful night (I’ll leave the details of what happened for you to discover when you see the movie — no worries, it’s not graphic or anything). Though he has two jobs and lives in an apartment with his friend Lewis (Jeff Daniels), a blind man he met in a rehabilitation clinic, Chris’s parents still treat him like an invalid, making it that much harder for him to shake free of his past.

Most of Chris’s disabilities have to do with short-term memory issues. Like Leonard in Memento, Chris writes down things he needs to remember — notes from Lewis, important life lessons he doesn’t want to forget, instructions on how to do stuff, the names of people he’s met, etc. One night while out at a bar, he meets a guy named Gary who claims to have known him in high school. The two become friends, but what Chris doesn’t realize is that Gary has been targeting him for several weeks, after discovering that the brain-damaged Chris works the night shift as a janitor at the local bank. See, Gary and his buddies want to rob that bank, and they need someone on the inside who can help them do it. Someone they can trick and manipulate. Someone just like Chris.

Chris has struggled for so long, both with his guilt over prom night and with his new life as a disabled person, so when Gary jots down “He who has the money, has the power” in his notebook, he can’t help but read and reread it, finally deciding the only way he’ll ever have a happier life is if he has enough money to do whatever he wants. He agrees to help Gary, but things go horribly awry at the last minute, and the next thing Chris knows, both his own life and the life of his best friend Lewis are in danger.

How Chris gets out of this mess makes for an extremely dramatic and very entertaining finale — I love it when a plan comes together, is all I’ll say about that. But even though the story is superb, what really impressed me about this film was the dialogue and writing (I love how Chris’s final words at the end of the film come full circle to his first words at the beginning, for example), as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is, in short, utterly brilliant in this movie. Chris’s personality and the effects of his brain injury were so believable and authentic that I completely forgot who Joseph Gordon-Levitt was by the second scene. This is a testament not just to Joe’s innate acting talents, but also to his extensive research while preparing for the role. He not only spent a lot of time with people who had the same type of brain injury Chris had, but he also worked hard throughout filming to maintain an overall sense of “being” that made him feel the way he thought Chris himself would feel on a day-to-day basis (for example, Chris’s brain injury leaves him feeling tired most of the time, and Joseph says he intentionally deprived himself of sleep during filming so that his exhaustion would really come through). Jeff Daniels was also really wonderful in this — I’ve always loved that guy, and he’s superb as Chris’s acerbic pal Lewis.

All in all, this is one of the most engaging films I’ve seen in months. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is certainly a force to be reckoned with — I have yet to see him in something where I didn’t think he was totally brilliant (I’d also recommend Mysterious Skin, by the way, which I thought was wonderful, though I’ll warn you it’s extremely hard to watch emotionally). He’s so amazing, he almost makes me want to break my ban on Boyfriends of the Weekwho were born in the 80’s. Hmmmm . . . Food for thought.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Drama, Heist
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, Carla Gugino, Matthew Good, Isla Fischer

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7 Responses to “MOVIE: The Lookout (2007)”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    YEAH!!! Meg, thanks for describing this wonderful film much better than I ever could. I hope it encourages many of your readers to give it a chance, it really is a great story. I’m glad that you enjoyed it so much.

    I love that you wrote “what really impressed me about this film was the dialogue and writing”. That is what I appreciate and enjoy most in films. I often say that I prefer to watch 2 people in a room talking instead of a series of chase scenes.

    I consider JG-L (a great abbreviation coined by a friend) to have an “old soul”. I admit to having a bit of a crush on him also but it’s hard to not respond to his intelligence and talent which shine through in every role.

    And, I too re-recommend “Mysterious Skin”. It’s heartbreaking but so good!

  2. megwood Says:

    Ooh, yeah, I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was about JG-L that so intrigued me, but you hit it on the head — “old soul.” Exactly!

    I’m always sort of startled when I watch a film that has good writing/dialogue. It doesn’t happen very often, partly because I do tend to seek out bad movies on purpose, but also because tight writing is pretty rare these days. It was one of the things I SO loved about “Juno,” too. Yay for smart people!

  3. psyche Says:

    Thanks for the wonderful review…I’m looking forward to the this movie…your post convinced me a lot…

  4. angel932 Says:

    I’m so glad you liked this film! When I saw it in the theater I was stunned by how emotionally involved I became. I almost never cry at movies, but this one had me sobbing. NO one I know has seen it, even though I tried to get people to go.

    I think Joe was amazing and so, of course, no one is even talking about awards for him (because he started on a sitcom or because he’s so young, I wonder?). I saw the trailer for his new movie “Stop Loss” today while I was at thesecond time aound for “Sweeney Todd” and I have no desire to see the movie except for him at Ciaran Hinds (who will always be Capt. Wentwort to me), so I guess I’ll have to go!

    Thanks for the great review.

  5. Lorraine Says:

    I think that the awards often go to those who play the Hollywood game and JG-L just doesn’t. I was so happy when Meg put up this review so a few more people check it out.

    I’m torn about Stop-Loss also but it’s a definite rental because of Ciaran and JG-L. I also love Ciaran Hinds. He’s the best as Wentworth but he’s very interesting as Edward Rochester also. Do you think that we can get Meg to watch “Persuasion”(1995) and put up a review (only if she loves it!!).

  6. megwood Says:

    Because I love you soooooooo much, Lorraine, I just put Persuasion in slot number 1 of my Netflix queue, and I should get it next week and watch it next weekend (this weekend is booked with Boyfriend research!).

  7. Lorraine Says:

    I wait with bated breath…

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