Through the Looking Glass


The Lookout
1/2 stars

Written and directed by: Scott Frank
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels,

Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino,

Bruce McGill,
Isla Fisher 

Running Time: 98 min.
MPAA Rating: R


Car chases, shoot-outs, and a bank heist aside, at the core of Scott Frank’s gripping The Lookout is a portrait of a young man desperately seeking redemption and purpose.  Chris Pratt, played to perfection by the pliable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, copes with a traumatic head injury that robs his short-term memory and relegates him to second-class status.  He wears his emotions on his sleeve and needs to think backwards to remember chronologically.

"I wake up.  Get dressed.  Take my meds.  Make coffee…"  But the Memento comparisons stop there.  Introspective and visually poetic, the psychological thriller devotes as much time to character development as it does to plot twists.  Frank’s taut screenplay finds humor in tragedy, calm in chaos.  While Chris erupts in frustration and rage at his inability to open a can of food, his blind and wisecracking roommate, Lewis (Jeff Daniels) methodically picks up the pieces.  Though an unlikely duo, Lewis is the one who leads him through the darkness, providing Chris with much-needed wit and perspective.


As if jumping through daily mental hurdles isn't bad enough, Chris spends his nights cleaning the floor of a small Kansas bank, reminiscing about his hockey-playing heyday and gorgeous then-girlfriend. He tosses a garbage bin to the side and uses a broom and tape roll as a makeshift hockey stick and puck. “I just want to be who I was,” he laments. 

Before long, his luck shifts when he meets charismatic Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) and falls for naive but sweet Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher).  For a moment, Chris believes this is his chance to start over.  But their ulterior motives manifest just as quickly as their chance encounter and Chris finds himself embroiled in the titular role of a multi-million dollar bank heist.

First scribed over ten years ago and previously attached to David Fincher and Sam Mendes, the film is well worth the wait under the deft debut direction of the Oscar-nominated Frank. His screenplay is as smart as it is sensual, high-octane as it is subtle.  What could have easily denigrated to another mind-numbing caricature in the Quentin Tarantino vein, The Lookout aims for humanity and heart—and succeeds.

A native of New York, Win-Sie Tow has worked for the IFP Market, Hamptons International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and most recently on Parvez Sharma's documentary  A Jihad for Love. She currently works for the Sundance Documentary Film Program.