Look At Me (5/10)

by Tony Medley

This had the makings of a terrific, touching, sensitive movie. Unfortunately, it ends up as almost a caricature of what everyone always thought about French art films, as it’s long and talky.

Lolita (Marilou Berry) is a rotund 20 year-old woman with a beautiful singing voice (Berry lip syncs to someone else in the film; other than that, most of the singing is live) and a famous, inconsiderate, selfish boob for a father, Etienne Broussard (co-writer Jean-Pierre Bacri), who gives her no respect and who has a wife, Karine (Virginie Desarnauts), Lolita’s age. Sylvia Miller (Agnés Jaoui, who also co-wrote and directed) is Lolita’s singing teacher who doesn’t have a lot of interest in her until she discovers that Lolita’s father is a famous author she admires. Her husband, Pierre (Laurent Grevill), is also a writer who doubts he will ever be successful until it happen and he meets Etienne.

Lolita epitomizes many who are in what I call the Rodney Dangerfield dilemma; they just don’t get any respect. Rodney made it funny, but it’s not funny, it’s horribly damaging and discouraging. Berry captures her character with an awe-inspiring honesty. Jaoui directs her with a deft touch, creating situations with which only the disrespected can identify. On the night of her performance, when she should be the star, she comes down the stairs where all are waiting for her and Etienne says, “Look how beautiful she is!” Instead of Lolita, however, he’s speaking of Karine, who is next to her but a step behind. The look on Lolita’s face says it all. Even in her moment of glory, she’s ignored.

At the film’s beginning they are all going to some theater event and Lolita somehow gets left behind in the crowd as Etienne and his entourage are granted entry before everyone else. When Lolita tries to enter, however, she’s turned away. While roaming around the crowd, she meets Sébastian (Keine Bouhiza), a good-looking young man who passes out in front of her, which begins a relationship that continues throughout the film.

Etienne is more boorish than Ernest Hemingway in his glory, a hateful man who has consideration for nobody’s feelings. Bacri creates an annoying villain.

With a good editor cutting it from 110 minutes to 90, this would be a winner, despite Jaoui’s opinion, “The script was too long but we couldn’t cut it. It was during editing that I did it. For the first time, the film is not the exact copy of the script, but in the end I don’t miss any of the scenes that aren’t there any more.” I would hate to have to sit through the original uncut film. If she thinks the final product is what she wants, she didn’t have to sit through it de novo as required of everyone else. (In French with subtitles).