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Friday Film    

Review: Look at Me

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Turns out French women do get fat. Set in fabulous dwellings and excellent cafes in and around Paris, Look at Me (Comme Une Image) centers on the uncomfortably named Lolita (Marilou Berry), who is about the same age as her stunning stepmother, and also about twice her size. Lolita is miserably convinced that people pay attention to her only as a means of meeting her father (Jean-Pierre Bacri, also the film’s co-writer), a famous novelist, powerful publisher, narcissistic bullying crank, and all-around bad dad who doesn’t even pretend he stayed in the room past the beginning of his daughter’s big-deal voice recital.
    What sets Look at Me apart from other they-can’t-see-the-real-me fat girl films is that Lolita is right. Her voice teacher Sylvie (Agnès Jaoui, also the director and co-writer) takes no real interest in Lolita’s middling talents until she finds out who her student’s father is; sure enough, the connection catapults Sylvie’s frustrated-novelist husband into publishing success and full-on sycophancy. The film’s villain is not so much the dad but his entourage of hangers-on, the story not so much an après-school special as a spare, witty fable about superficiality and hypocrisy. The elegant gesture of comeuppance at its end had me cheering silently in my seat — and wondering whom I could suck up to for an invitation to the French countryside. — Lynn Harris 

Date DVD #26: Closer
Making its DVD debut this week, the complete original series Astro Boy is brilliant in its sunny, futuristic way. But anime landmark or not, do not attempt to woo any but the most geeky paramour with it. It’s brilliant kids stuff, but still kids stuff in the end. Closer, too, is a dangerous proposition, but it’s a risk worth taking.
    If you’re looking for a sexy, sophisticated, romantic drama — which is how the studio advertised Closer — do not rent this film. Playwright Patrick Marber’s creation is a bait-and-switch, the most dark and vicious take on sexual behavior last year. Cheating has never been less fun. For the tale of two couples who wound each other repeatedly, director Mike Nichols sets up four of the most beautiful actors in the world: Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts. Then he knocks each one of the lust-wracked characters down in the end. For this reason, you do not cuddle up on the couch with Closer. You administer it, as shock therapy for a date with bad tendencies.
    If you suspect your date is sleeping around, this film will scare him straight. The sight of beautiful boy Jude Law seducing Julia Roberts is inspiring. But a later sequence in which Law whimpers and whines while Clive Owen condescends to him is stomach-turning.
    If your date is going through one of those stripper phases, or just won’t commit, then the sad sight of Natalie Portman never growing up might just give your date the kick in the ass she needs.
    There are plenty of moments in Closer so lurid they function as the romantic equivalent of anti-smoking photos. Think of Jude Law’s pathetic pout and Portman’s bad hair as a pair of black, withered lungs. Hey, if Smoking Kills, cheating ruins your life.
    Stiff stuff for a date — but some dates deserve it. And to them you can turn when the film ends and say, sweetly, “At least we’re not like them.” — Logan Hill

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