Film Review – The Lookalike
The Lookalike has the ambition to be an intense, multiple-character epic about revenge and the drug trade, but it is weighed down in overblown dialogue, underdeveloped characters, and a story that is too involved in itself for its own good. This is one of the most boring films, in that it takes things that are inherently exciting—crime, sex, drugs—yet has no idea how to make these elements stand out. In part, this is because director Richard Gray and writer Michele Davis-Gray have no idea how to give anything or anyone time to develop.
Our convoluted story starts with two top-tier drug dealers, Bobby (John Corbett) and Frank (Steven Bauer), who are on the verge of getting what they need from the big boss as soon as they bring him a very specific woman he wants to sleep with. The woman is willing, but then dies due to a freak accident, and now they need to find a lookalike.
Besides the drug dealers, there is also a lower-level dealer named Joe (Jerry O’Connell), an ex-basketball player who wants to host a cooking show but needs money to settle some debts. At the club his bosses run, he meets deaf amputee Mila (Scottie Thompson), who just picked up some poison to kill herself, and starts to banter with her. Then there is Joe’s brother, Holt (Justin Long), an addict who owes money to a local hoodlum, Vincent (Luis Guzmán), who has a history with the family. Holt meets another addict, Lacey (Gillian Jacobs), who is looking to buy from Joe but is doing it for the cops to avoid her own jail time.
This all happens in the first twenty-or-so minutes of the film, giving us no time to really connect, especially when so much of the time is filled with extraneous dialogue that thinks it is more important than it is. The most glaring moment is when Holt (whmo we do not know is a user) is talking about how thinking about drugs brings to mind the poor children in the countries growing drugs and how they are hurt. He tries to convince Lacey, a woman he has just met, that she doesn’t need drugs. Joe and Mila spend even less time talking beyond a few random jokes. After this short amount of time, both of these couples jump into bed. Now there is such a thing as two lonely people getting into bed together, but these two couples are so unknown, so meagerly developed, and the sex scenes themselves so ordinary, that it is difficult to think anything other than the director decided we needed a sex scene.
Then it becomes clear that this is how a lot of the film is put together. The director adds something because he thinks the story needs it—needs a murder, needs a twist, needs a loving confession, etc. From there, the plot comes together in a predictable manner with little to talk about in between except for the fact that it takes forever to get to these moments, and for the life of me I cannot remember what was going on in the meantime. The characters spend some time together but they never gain any new insights or become more connected. These moments do not expand the characters and so end up dragging everything down. Even when the stakes are made higher, it never feels like any real issues are dealt with, partially because these characters so obviously fit a “role” of who is expendable and who is not, and you have to work really hard to feel anything about what happens to them.
These have got to be some of the most uninspiring characters I have ever seen. Nothing feels authentic. The characters are just doing what the story needs, and since there is no real depth to any of them, nothing they do surprises me. I kept feeling sorry for Gillian Jacobs, seeing her outside Community and being given so little to do. She is a talented actress who can do so much and to limit her in this way felt like a crime. Jerry O’Connell’s character, Joe, was one of the worst examples, because as our moral compass in the film, he has no urgency to him. For a guy in the drug trade, he never seems nervous or appears to ever be affected by anything that happens. His reactions are always muted no matter how horrible something is to the point that he has no personality at all. His relationship with Mila tries to fill that void, but they have no chemistry together and she ends up being a prop he can talk to so he can have something to do.
This film is really simply forgettable, with over-the-top dialogue, bad pacing, and lazy characters. I was counting the minutes I was having to endure. By eleven minutes in I was lost and didn’t care, by thirty minutes things were coming together but the story it was telling didn’t interest me, and by the time the hour and forty minutes had gone by, I was just happy that it was finally over.