Give veteran writer-director Adam Rifkin (The Chase, Detroit Rock City) credit for knowing how to hook an audience with a weak gimmick. Rifkin's film Look intends to comment on the lack of privacy in modern life by presenting a handful of loosely intertwined stories shot from the perspective of security cameras. The opening scene takes place in a department-store dressing room, where two high-school girls strip down to their underpants and talk about whether they should bleach their buttholes. A few scenes later, Look follows a corporate nerd as he picks his nose and farts in an elevator. A few scenes after that, Rifkin shows a policeman getting beaten up and thrown into the trunk of a car. Which all really makes a strong point, because… Wait, what were we talking about again?
The main problem with Look is that—security-cam shtick aside—the basic structure of the movie is just another Magnolia/Crash-style narrative tapestry, only with far cruder strands. One of the half-naked teenyboppers plots to seduce her teacher. The geeky cubicle-dweller suffers the pranks of colleagues. Two thrill-killers rampage across the city. A convenience-store clerk dreams of becoming a rock star. A married lawyer has an affair with another man. A pedophile stalks a child in the same mall where a floor manager screws all his female employees. Filmed by security cameras or not, nearly all these characters behave—and talk—like people in a movie.
Nevertheless, Look's approach has its advantages. The film has a distinctive look, and the performances play out in extended scenes with a rhythm more like live theater than cinema. Rifkin clearly means to exploit the audience's voyeuristic impulse, and when he has two characters ding a car in a parking lot and mutter, "Did anybody see?", it's fleetingly funny, but also just a little heavy, philosophically speaking. But aside from a smattering of irony and a resolution for one of the storylines, the security cameras aren't really threaded into Look's essential purpose. If the idea is that we're always being watched, why does it seem that in this movie, no one's really paying attention?