LOOK AT ME (Agnès Jaoui). 110 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 8). For venues and times, see Movies, page 103. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's rare for a film to teach you something important that you didn't already know about life.Agnès Jaoui's Look At Me explains, with dispassionate lucidity, exactly why things never quite turn out the way you'd like them to, and what's to be done about it.
It's not so much an ensemble piece as a Rube Goldberg machine made out of French intellectuals.Arrogant, successful novelist Etienne (Jean-Pierre Bacri) neglects his zaftig and put-upon daughter, Lolita (Marilou Berry), who idolizes her music teacher, Sylvia (Jaoui), who long-sufferingly supports her small-time novelist husband, Pierre, who becomes Etienne's lickspittle protege, and so on.
Co-writers Jaoui and Bacri subtly direct our attention to the desires, compulsions and constraints that prevent each character from giving any of the others what they want.Then they set them in motion and let us watch them knock each other into painfully predictable outcomes.
Which would be good enough if it were left at that.All the bourgeois toadying and self-deception, couched in clever dialogue spoken in picturesque dining rooms,would make for a fun social satire.
What's great about Look At Me is the way it points a way out of the sleepwalking self-absorption that traps most of its characters.That, plus a fine ending that's all the more satisfying for being equivocal.