The picture-imperfect daughter, to return now to our evolving web, believes that the sole reason other people would ever take an interest in her is to get to know the Great Man. She is not far wrong. Her voice coach, a genuine admirer of the writer, and at first unaware of her student's relation to him, uses the connection to advance the career of her husband, an unsuccessful writer and self-described "kept man," who has his own problems of self-image; and the daughter's new boyfriend, a chance acquaintance who responds warmly to her anonymous act of kindness towards him, has his own aspirations in the publishing world. So, no: she is not far wrong, and still she is wrong -- as will finally come out at the climactic choral concert and its aftermath, when the characters show their true colors. Some of this is too painful to be funny. But our recognition of human strivings and failings can touch off moderate mirth, if never violent hilarity, anywhere along the way, on no set schedule.
The artists most responsible for this wise, wily, observant, truly adult entertainment are the writing and acting team of Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui, who previously wrote and acted in Un Air de Famille, Same Old Song, and The Taste of Others, the last of which was also Jaoui's first directing job. Look at Me is her second, and is as fluid a job as you could desire, even if you might desire an image a little less jaundiced. In front of the camera, Bacri of course takes the role of the literary lion, and cements his position as the cinema's supreme sourpuss. Jaoui is the voice coach, a delicate part played with quiet finesse. And newcomer Marilou Berry, daughter of the actress-writer-director Josiane Balasko, plays the hefty daughter, with no fudging of her heftiness: no mere plumpness passed off as corpulence; no padding for extra poundage. She thus falls in line with the likes of Romane Bohringer (The Accompanist), Sylvie Testud (Murderous Maids), Roxane Mesquida (Fat Girl), not to mention her real-life mother (Too Beautiful for You), nonlookers of various types who seem to gain access to French screens more readily than their counterparts do to American. In her role here, she is not the sort of endomorph who is comfortable in her stretched skin: stout and proud. She carries a boulder-sized chip on her shoulder, and she slumps under the weight of it. In her father's eyes, "She's anger on wheels." She is not, in anyone's eyes, easy to like. One of the many strengths of the film is that it grants her, and us, all the time and help we need.