Scott Frank's film The Lookout is a disability narrative. It's also a heist movie. There is, of course, no shortage of either of these genres in cinema. But The Lookout is made intriguing and important by the performance that is the film's centerpiece: an exciting turn from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The film follows a young man as he copes with a debilitating head injury. Chris can't seem to be able to put things in their correct sequences. And he keeps forgetting things. He is constantly locking his keys in his car and he is forced to write down anything that he wants to be sure to remember in a little notebook he carries with him. Chris used to be a hockey star until his car accident, and now he cleans floors and bathrooms at a small-town bank in Kansas and tries to get by. The plot of the film begins when an old schoolmate comes back into Chris's life and they plan to rob the bank where Chris works. I don't want to spoil any more of the plot because The Lookout is worth seeing. It's a slow-moving (at least at first) character study, but that's just what makes the film so compelling.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives yet another near-brilliant performance in The Lookout. I thought he was great in Mysterious Skin (though that movie has other problems) and I absolutely loved him in last year's Brick. With The Lookout, Gordon-Levitt is constantly surprising. I found myself studying his face for what this character would do next. The fleeting memories and terror in Chris's eyes as he re-sequences things he can't quite remember are beautiful acting moments and have the power to be wonderfully moving at times.
The film isn't what I would call predictable, but unfortunately, most of the other characters are stock types and director Frank doesn't give enough screentime to the other actors for them to distinguish themselves. The film costars Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode and Bruce McGill, a group of actors I admire, but none of them really has time to make much of an impression. But it doesn't matter, because The Lookout's main attraction is just so good. I'm calling the movie a character study, because you shouldn't expect a heist movie or an action movie when you sit down, but the character study is worth it.