It really ain't over till the fat lady sings in Look At Me (Comme Une Image), a wonderfully witty and observant comedy-drama from writer-director Agnès Jaoui (previously responsible for the equally smart The Taste Of Others). A film about power - in particular, the way people choose to misuse it within relationships - family tensions, and the monstrous egos at large in the arts world, this is as French as Camembert and Sacha Distel, only considerably less cheesy.
Lolita (Marilou Berry) is a young student singer with self esteem issues: she obsesses about being overweight; questions whether she's good enough to make it professionally as a chanteuse; and endures a far from harmonious relationship with her father, Étienne (Jaoui's real-life husband, Jean-Pierre Bacri). He's a hugely successful novelist who's arrogant, conceited and boasts appalling manners (even by a Frenchman's standards). Worse, his 'I care' window is permanently closed with regards to his daughter.
"ONE OF THE MOST SOPHISTICATED MOVIES OF THE YEAR"
Things are further complicated by the fact that his waif-like partner, Karine (Virginie Desarnauts), is half his age and looks more like Lolita's glamorous sister (in fact, the film cleverly introduces the women to give this impression). Sylvia (Jaoui herself) and her self-loathing - well, he is a writer - husband Pierre (Laurent Grévill) get to know the family business when she starts tutoring Lolita's choral group, and his latest novel gets championed by Étienne.
Look At Me is one of those character-driven movies where the plot is largely incidental to the numerous emotional truths. Refreshingly, the characters aren't likeable a lot of the time; crucially, however, they are completely believable and recognisable. Accompanied by a heavenly soundtrack for lovers of choral music (yes, you sir), this is one of the most sophisticated movies of the year. Make sure you look at this.
In French with English subtitles.