Shot entirely from the perspective of surveillance cameras, Rifkin’s Look is a gimmick in search of a purpose. Although the writer-director finds a variety of angles and vantage points from which to document his characters via theoretical Big Brother-style spying devices, only once does he justify this method of shooting by giving it any bearing on the story or the lives of the characters. Instead, we’re left with what is essentially yet another intersecting-characters dramedy, a genre so well-worn, especially in indie film, that the addition of the occasional bit of night vision or videotape degradation certainly can’t make it fresh again.
Rifkin introduces a handful of rather broad types, including a teen trying to seduce her teacher, a lecherous department-store manager and a pair of slacker convenience-store workers. They have a lot of sex, much of it illicit, occasionally steal and otherwise behave mildly badly when they think they’re in private. There’s also a pair of criminals on some sort of spree, and the major plotlines take some slightly dark turns by the film’s end.
Rifkin’s hook may sound exciting, but he doesn’t really have anything to say about the ubiquity of surveillance cameras in modern society, and he cheats by allowing his cameras to capture incredibly crisp images, perfectly intelligible sound and even the occasional zoom during a particularly emotional moment. Visually, the only significant result is that this is a movie almost entirely devoid of close-ups.
It really could have been shot in a traditional style without much of a difference, except that taking away the novelty would serve to expose the movie for how clichéd and poorly written it actually is. Some of the initial set-ups could be amusing as sketches, but as the movie goes on and Rifkin strains to create meaningful drama, things only get sillier and more unbelievable. By the end, you’re ready to call for the abolition of video surveillance, if only so that you can stop watching all these irritating characters.
Hayes McArthur, Giuseppe Andrews, Miles Dougal, Spencer Redford
Directed by Adam Rifkin