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Look (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 13, 2022


LOOK (2007)

Starring Jamie McShane, Spencer Redford, Hayes MacArthur, Nichelle Hines, Ben Weber, Paul Schackman, Chris Williams, Jennifer Fontaine, Giuseppe Andrews, Miles Dougal, Rhys Coiro, Sebastian Feldman, Jackie Geary, Heather Hogan and Kimberly Quinn.

Screenplay by Adam Rifkin.

Directed by Adam Rifkin.

Distributed by Liberated Artists. 102 minutes. Rated R.

At the very beginning of Look, a title scroll points out that everyone in the United States is filmed by approximately 200 surveillance cameras every single day.

Then the film goes on to demonstrate how deeply this phenomenon has completely destroyed any hope for privacy in the modern world.

Look essentially allows the audience to eavesdrop on the somewhat intertwined lives of about twenty people in the Los Angeles area. All of the action is captured by different forms of surveillance gear: security cameras, police dashboard cams, nanny cams, cell phone video screens, ATM monitors, computer cams, dressing room one-way mirrors, elevator cameras… even television news cameras.

What we see are people living the little embarrassing and boring moments of life – because they are under the mistaken impression that they are alone and not being seen.

This is not the first film to be made in this manner – earlier this year there was a little Colin Hanks thriller called Alone with Her that was also supposedly completely comprised of surveillance footage. I have the feeling there are others I am not familiar with.

As a camera and storytelling style it is both intriguingly voyeuristic and at the same time just a little frustrating. Often the scenes are played out in fixed long shots. There is wildly varying picture quality and static sometimes intrudes. Also, in this film, all of the cameras have full audio so that we can hear what the characters are saying. Most surveillance cams in real life do not have sound.

The episodic structure of the film makes it hard to catch the threads of the story at first – particularly with the quick and seemingly random cutting and the pretty-much unknown cast. However, eventually as the characters keep appearing, a larger tapestry of sex, violence, anger and death emerges from these seemingly banal images.

There is an under-aged teenage temptress who has decided to seduce her happily married teacher, a pair of convenience store slackers who want to get rich without working, a married lawyer who leaves his wife and kids to have a down-low homosexual affair with a colleague, an insurance company drone who is the constant butt of practical jokes and a lothario department store manager who is trying his best to have sex with all of his female employees. There are also a pair of murdering bandits who are leaving a series of bodies in locked car trunks.

The characters all intersect in surprising and increasingly troubling ways – to a point where we see collisions coming for the lives of many of them. There is a bit of gallows humor here, but for the most part peoples’ actions become darker and darker, giving the film a suspenseful charge.

For example, a series of shots of a man in a goofy blue first-mate’s cap following mothers and their little daughters around a mall – always on the alert for the opportunity to get the girl alone – is more disturbing and scarier than anything you’ll see in any monster film.

Of course, when we find out who exactly the stalker is, it turns out to be just one of common-sense jumps that the film takes. Not that it certainly couldn’t have been him, it just seems a little convenient as a plot point. However, if you are willing to buy into the occasional logic flights and melodrama, you are rewarded with a complex, taut thriller.

Look was written and directed by Adam Rifkin – who was known for much more lightweight fare in his studio days – stuff like Small Soldiers, Detroit Rock City and Mouse Hunt. Rifkin and his fresh, talented cast have taken what might have been merely a gimmick picture and made a fascinating and somewhat tragic portrait of the lack of privacy in modern life.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: November 30, 2007.

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