Lolita (Marilou Berry) is 20 years old, an ugly ducking -“ plump, miserable -“ but with a beautiful singing voice.
Her singing teacher Sylvia (played by Look At Me‘s director and co-writer Agn?Jaoui) is not interested in her pupil until she realises Lolita is the daughter of her favourite author, ?ienne Cassard (Jean-Pierre Bacri).
Sylvia is married to Pierre (Laurent Gr?ll), a self-doubting author teetering on the verge of his big break.
As Lolita and her singing group prepare for a concert, she invites Sylvia and Pierre to meet her father, an A-list author and publisher who becomes uncomfortable when the spotlight shines on someone else.
His second wife is not much older than Lolita. The waif-like Karine (Virginie Desarnauts) is so weight-obsessed, she wails about being too fat in front of the plump and obviously suffering Lolita, who is smitten with Mathieu -“ her sometime-not really boyfriend who’s more interested in her father and other girls than he is in Lolita.
And then there’s Sebastien, the young journalist Lolita finds drunk in a Paris street.
It may sound convoluted but Look At Me is anything but. Jaoui’s latest film is a true comedy of manners -“ or rather the lack of manners -“ set in the world of publishing where egos run wild over the frailties of others.
Look At Me takes great pleasure in tripping through the conversations, spats and misunderstandings that sprout like weeds around the egotistical ?ienne Cassard and his fawning social circle.
Here, everyone has an opinion about everyone else’s bad behaviour, yet they are blind to their own bad behaviour.
Jaoui is an actor’s director and her uncomplicated approach gives actors the space to play with the scenarios and dryly humorous dialogue: at one point after Lolita has been cut down by her father, she wails, I’m a zero, into Sebastien’s arms.
We’re all zeroes, he ventures reassuringly.
Not as much as me, she counters, collapsing into tears again.
While the entire ensemble is strong, there are two stars in this film.
Firstly, there’s the music and its transformative power of singing.
For this, Jaoui enlists her own amateur singing group to perform the transcendent arias and hymns we hear -“ and these are the vehicle through which Lolita ultimately comes alive.
And then there’s Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jaoui’s real-life husband and long-term co-writer, who steals the show as the despicable middle-aged author who compulsively makes jokes at the expense of others.
Sophisticated, witty and very French, Look At Me lightly holds a mirror up to our own foibles.