Look

Reviewed by Kemp Powers

Despite the Orwellian implication of its title, this film by writer/director Adam Rifkin is just another in a long line of multiple plotline ensemble films in the tradition of Short Cuts, Magnolia and Crash; a collection of seemingly disparate stories the viewer knows will at some point collide. However, Look differentiates itself from its contemporaries, and merits viewing, due to the unique lenses through which we follow the half-dozen primary characters as they strut, shoot and fornicate their way through the city of Los Angeles.

The film opens with the sobering statistic that on any given day, the average American is captured on surveillance cameras about 200 times. The entire film is shot from the perspective of these virtually innocuous surveillance devices; a security camera watching over a mall parking lot, a nanny-camera hidden away inside a houseplant; the fish-eye lens peering at customers as they withdraw money from an ATM; the secretly-installed camera observing two naked teenage girls in a department store dressing room as they bend over for one another and discuss the merits of anal bleaching.

One of these girls, Lolita-esque blonde Sherri Van Haften (Spencer Redford), is intent on seducing her high school teacher Mr. Krebbs (Jamie McShane). The duos hijinks set the film in motion, and the Sherri/Mr. Krebbs scenario is the closest thing the movie has to a central plotline.

Though they arent as developed as these central characters, almost equal time is spent exploring a lecherous department store managers (Hayes MacArthur) relentless quest to have sex with every one of his female employees, a starry-eyed mini-mart clerks brush with infamy, an attorneys sexual indiscretions and a socially inept cubicle workers (Ben Weber) sorry life of being relentlessly pranked by his co-workers. Another dozen characters thrown into the mix provide loose connections to the multiple plotlines and occasional red herrings for the viewers.

Most of the actors are relative unknowns, with one of the lone recognizable faces being Rhys Coiro, who plays relentlessly independent director Billy Walsh on the HBO series Entourage. His character is one of two brutal robbers/murderers engaged in a crime spree tearing across the city.

Any polemics on the merits or detriments of surveillance in modern society are never discussed, which will disappoint those looking for some greater meaning to this unique and refreshing bit of filmmaking. In fact, the cameras only intrude or influence the story in one particularly intense scene near the end of the film. Immediately after the camera makes its presence known, one is left wanting for its impact to be felt in other scenes, particularly one moments earlier when a horrific crime is committed in front of what appears to be a mall security camera.

Helmer Rifkin is a veteran scribe whose credits include such light fare as the Tim Allen comedy Zoom (2006) and the CGI-TK Small Soldiers (1998), and whose biggest directorial effort was the 1999 road trip lark Detroit Rock City.

At first, Look seems to follow in the lighthearted footsteps of Rifkins earlier work, with the cameras mostly capturing characters stripping off their clothes, having sex and expelling bodily gas.

It comes as a surprise then that the last third of the film takes on such a sinister tone, with issues of rape, pedophilia and murder suddenly becoming front and center in a manner that many who had to that point been enjoying a lighthearted pic might find uncomfortable.

Still, the ensemble all does an excellent job of convincingly bringing these many interesting characters to life, and though it is a completely scripted work of fiction, Look bears more characteristics (both good and bad) of the world in which we live than the seemingly endless number of television shows currently being passed off as reality.

Cast:

Berry Krebbs: Jamie McShane
Sherri Van Haften: Spencer Redford
Tony Gilbert: Hayes MacArthur
Marty: Ben Weber
Ben: Paul Schackman
George Higgins: Chris Williams
Louise: Jennifer Fontaine
Willie: Giuseppe Andrews
Ace: Rhys Coiro
Holly: Heather Hogan

Credits:

A Liberated Artists release
Director: Adam Rifkin
Producer: Barry Schuler, Brad Wlman, Alwyn Hight Kushner
Executive Producer: Donald Kushner
Screenplay: Adam Rifkin
Director of Photography: Ron Forsythe
Visual Effects: Scott Billups
Composer: BT

MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 102 minutes