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Sony Picture Classics presents
"They find out I'm so-and-so's daughter, they suddenly find me very interesting. It's disgusting."
DVD ReviewConflicted parent/child relationships have been the stuff of drama as far back as Sophocles, and it's the mark of a well-told and emotionally rich story that it fails to take sides absolutely in generational warfare—the blanket denunciation of children as ingrates or parents as tyrannical invariably obscures more than it reveals. Look at Me is extraordinarily wise and even-handed in its telling; it's also, relevant to our media age, about the price of fame and notoriety. Who aspires to be famous, what does it take to get there and stay there, and what impact does that have on those that love you? They're not questions that most of us have to or want to answer, but there's so much here that's emotionally resonant, whether or not you or someone in your family has to fight off the paparazzi.
Jean-Pierre Bacri is Etienne Cassard, one of Paris's great men of letters—he's a famous novelist whose arrival at a movie premiere provokes the kind of enthusiastic outbursts generally reserved for those whose faces and not words are up on the screen. He's a publisher as well, always looking for fresh talent to add to his roster of clients, while wary of their inevitable aspirations to knock him out of the box. Cassard's daughter, Lolita (Marilou Berry), hungers for her father's attention, but if you told her as much, she'd probably slap you. Lolita aspires to a career as an opera singer, though she lacks confidence about her talent, and hungers for attention and validation from Daddy—the title of the film is her constant but unspoken imploring to her father. He is occupied, alas, with burnishing his own reputation, and with his new trophy wife, not much older than Lolita, and their new daughter, Lolita's half sister, a nursery schooler.
Enmeshed in the lives of la famille Cassard are Sylvia and Pierre. She is played by AgnŹs Jaoui, also the film's director; Sylvia is Lolita's vocal coach, prepared to distance herself from her pupil until she finds out who Lolita's father is. (For Lolita, it seems, this is the story of her life.) Sylvia's husband, Pierre, is a novelist of very modest success; he has published two books so far to favorable reviews but limited sales, and the notion of proximity to the great Cassard could, he and his wife figure, only boost his own literary career.
What ensues is a seduction of sorts between the two men—Cassard pursues Pierre for his publishing stable, lavishing on him all the attention that his daughter has long dreamed of. Lolita's current substitute for male attention is Sébastien, whom she meets serendipitously; she figures that he sees her only as the gateway to her father, and her low self-esteem has her believing that no one could possibly be interested in her for her own sake. (Being overweight doesn't help, especially as her father likes to emphasize the point, and with frequent comparisons to his fantastically svelte young wife.)
The multidimensional characters and the relationships between them are the strength of this movie; the characters are occasionally pretentious, but the film itself never is. Bacri is wonderful in conveying the high-maintenance vanity of the great man, and Berry's frequently self-pitying Lolita still wins us over with her genuineness, with her quest for a strong emotional connection with someone who doesn't care about her surname. Jaoui's directorial hand is sure; she coaxes great performances out of her colleagues and blends herself well into the ensemble, but what may be especially noteworthy is the nimble touch of her storytelling, allowing her actors to shine without wallowing in it, keeping their strong characterizations in the service of her story. It's a mature movie that's respectful of its audience's intelligence, while demonstrating its emotional wisdom without getting maudlin or psychobabbly.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Good strong transfer, though there's a bit of scratching on the print from time to time.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Well balanced and strong dynamics; the abundance of classical music on the soundtrack makes it especially pleasant to listen to.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bon Voyage, The Triplets of Belleville
8 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: An extensive making-of documentary (01h:00m:32s) features lots of footage from the production: music rehearsals, wardrobe tests, Jouai setting up shots and working with the cast. There are no junket-like sit-downs, giving us instead a sense of what the day-to-day business on the set was like; like the feature, this doesn't spoon feed the audience, but there's a good amount here that's meaty and revealing. A package (19m:36s) of eight deleted scenes emphasize character moments, things no doubt cut in service of the narrative. There are a couple of little gems, though, especially Lolita's jokey but appropriate rendition of My Heart Belongs to Daddy, and the longest of the cut scenes is a painful playdate between Etienne and his young daughter—she wants to play tea party, he wants to take a nap.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsA strong, smart movie about the inevitably conflicted relationships we have with those we love and know the best, for better or worse.
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