Unorthodox? Sure. Trailblazing? Nah. Look feels both cool and gimmicky, but has a fairly traditional approach to telling multiple stories, jumping back and forth between teenage sexpots, illicit affairs, and in-home spying. The movie should be a peeping tom's wet dream... if only the material were real.
But it's not, and the movie loses power simply by being fictional. With any subpar performance (and there are several) or false-sounding dialogue, the fly-on-the-wall effect falters. Instead of feeling privy to secrets we shouldn't know, the audience witnesses a typical movie storyline, just told with non-traditional camera angles.
It is fun, however, to have more knowledge than the film's characters, and writer-director Adam Rifkin realizes that power and delivers it often. You're not just some department store customer seeing typical, ordinary stuff. Instead, you watch the clandestine store cameras catch the floor manager grabbing every employee's ass. It's a cheap God complex, but a God complex nonetheless.
In Look's press material, Rifkin (Detroit Rock City, writer of Mousehunt and Small Soldiers) and his team pose a political and philosophical question: In the post-9/11 world -- that standby phrase is getting old -- when should security trump privacy? Oddly, that stance doesn't surface in the film. The pressing question I found was: Why do people act like morons? Doesn't that jerk realize he should be discreet when screwing girls in the stockroom? Don't those sociopaths know they'll get caught kidnapping that woman?
I'm sure creating the script was a masterpiece of problem-solving, forcing all action to take place in public or semi-public settings. But with so many scenarios, interior and exterior, the thrill diminishes and we forget the source of the material. I suppose that could signify we are being watched everywhere, at all times, but it softens the tension and immediacy the film could have had.
Rifkin scores points for resolving some plotlines and leaving others (including the most disturbing one) wide open for disaster. His most gratuitous story, a simplistic femme fatale tale, has a strong final punch, with video becoming a part of the action, saving some and hurting many. The camera never does blink, really.
For the lack of reality that troubles Look, two issues make it difficult to suspend disbelief. First, the audio recording of these surveillance tapes is relatively excellent. That's a problem since we've seen so much hidden camera coverage over the years, and probably expect something a little rougher (or no audio at all). Second, and this is a big one, the film's point of view is never established. You could chalk it up to an objective source, but there are instances in which footage is rewound and zipped through, so there's clearly someone at the controls. Who?
Francis Coppola examined the power and destruction of surveillance in The Conversation and Mike Figgis played with multiple cameras in Time Code -- Look has the DNA of those films, but isn't as good as either. There are moments of titillation and suspense, but ultimately the movie is heavy on concept, not content.
Cleanup on aisle five.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 6th September 2008
Box Office Worldwide: $16.1 thousand
Distributed by: Liberated Artists
Production compaines: Capture Film Internatrional, Meteor Film Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 14
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Adam Rifkin
Producer: Barry Schuler, Brad Wyman
Screenwriter: Adam Rifkin
Starring: Jamie McShane as Berry Krebbs, Spencer Redford as Sherri Van Haften, Sebastian Feldman as Ron, Hayes MacArthur as Tony Gilbert, Nichelle Hines as Lydia, Ben Weber as Marty, Jackie Geary as Paige
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