April 08, 2007

MOVIES: The Lookout (Scott Frank, 2007)

Best movie of the year so far, with a perfect cast and a solid screenplay.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Chris Pratt. Chris was a golden boy in high school -- hockey star, popular with everyone, admired by all -- until an auto accident killed two of his friends and left him with just enough brain damage to make ordinary life a struggle. There are labels on everything in Chris's apartment to remind him to turn things on or off, and he carries a small notebook in which he writes down everything that he needs to remember. He has a job as night janitor at a bank, and shares an apartment with Lewis (Jeff Daniels), a blind man who was paired up with Chris by the local life-skills training center.

Chris has some trouble holding things in his left hand, and he orders O'Doul's at the bar (can't mix alcohol with his meds), but under most circumstances, you might never guess that anything was wrong with him. The locals all know, though, and their attitudes range from the condescending paternalism of the sheriff's deputy who checks in on Chris at the bank each night to the support of his counselor.

And of course, there are those who would take advantage of his disability. Enter Gary (Matthew Goode) and his girlfriend, an ex-stripper with the magnificent stage name Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher, miles away from her work in Wedding Crashers); they seduce Chris (in every way imaginable) into their circle of friends before revealing that they plan to rob his bank, and that they expect him to help.

That sets us off on a thrilling battle of wits, as Chris struggles to plan a way out of this mess, to remember it for long enough to make it work, and even to find ways to make his disability work in his favor by lowballing Gary's expectations of his abilities.

Scott Frank's screenplay is crisp and intelligent, and he gets top-notch performances from his four principal actors. Gordon-Levitt is especially fine; he's rapidly become one of our finest actors. He doesn't overplay Chris's mental problems (this isn't the standard Hollywood flashy "give me an Oscar" version of brain damage) but they're always present in subtle ways -- the relieved smile when he gets a joke, the frustration when he can't quite deliver a pickup line the way he used to.

Recommended without reservation.

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