Film — Look at Me (R)

Look at Me (R)

by Amy Diaz

A budding opera singer deals with her fatness and her dad’s jackassishness in the terribly French Look at Me.

Despite what the book would have us believe, French women apparently do get fat and life is no kinder for them than it is for their American counterparts. Lolita (Marilou Berry) is a good singer and the well-taken-care-of daughter of famous writer Etienne Cassard (Jean-Pierre Bacri). But despite talent and physical comfort she is painfully unhappy. Her father’s wife Karine (Virginie Desarnauts) is thin and beautiful and has produced an equally biologically lucky daughter. With his success, Etienne has become something of a cruel, arrogant twit. He corrects and humiliates his wife — believing incorrectly that she sees it as a sign of affection —and ignores his daughter, whom he rather patronizingly refers to as his “big girl.” She is particularly wounded by his disinterest in her because his presence, and the success his help can win a young writer, is often the real reason that friends and lovers pay any attention to her. And, while she believes Lolita has talent, the chance to get close to Etienne Cassard is ultimately the reason why Lolita’s voice teacher Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui, also the film’s director and co-writer) takes an interest in her. Sylvia’s husband Pierre (Laurent Grevill) is a stalled writer who could use a literary boost.

All this famous-person-adjacent celebrity has done bad things to Lolita’s psyche. She has inherited some of her father’s neglectful, unintentional cruelty, especially in her relationship with the sweet Sebastian (Keine Bouhiza). Sebastian seems genuinely interested in Lolita and, as a young man in xenophobic France whose real name is Rachid, understands her somewhat outsider status. But her deep self-loathing usually manifests itself in preemptive defensive lashing out, usually at Sebastian’s expense.

Look at Me is funny in the same way that HBO’s Entourage is funny — it offers a deadpan view of a social scene with an over-inflated sense of its own importance. Etienne regularly places his own ego-driven image above his family—his wife is only important to him because of her ability to put up with him—and seems genuinely flummoxed when people want more from him than to simply be in his presence. Lolita’s anger at his attitude wars with her deep need for his validation. Without physical grace, she’s almost invisible in his world but desperately needs him to, as the title suggests, momentarily cease his navel-gazing and look at her.

For a French movie, Look at Me has a fairly Hollywood ending but don’t worry; the blissful French cynicism still shines through.

- Amy Diaz

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