Just Looking

Just Looking is the big screen directorial debut of Jason Alexander, best known to audiences as the lazy George on Seinfeld, a role he played for almost a decade. Alexander is a veteran on stage and also appeared in numerous feature films, lately tending towards critically maligned family fare like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Dunston Checks In. Just Looking is the strange convergence of many of these past efforts; a coming of age story in mid-fifties New York. Everything about the movie tries to be earnest and endearing, but the focus on sex makes Just Looking a little creepy. Lenny's (Ryan Merriman, The Deep End of the Ocean) main goal for the summer is to watch two people having sex. He is fourteen years old and it does make sense that his hormones are raging, but he pursues this goal with an intensity bordering on the obsessive.

He first tries to catch his mother (Patti LuPone, Summer of Sam, The 24 Hour Won-kin) and stepfather Polinsky (Rich Licata, Two Family House, The Killing). They send him to "the country," which means Queens (he's from the Bronx) to summer with his aunt and uncle. He shifts his goal to watching his aunt and uncle until he learns she is pregnant. In Queens, he is a Jewish kid in an Italian neighborhood. Thankfully, Alexander doesn't have any large racial subplot; that would mar the attempts at nostalgia Just Looking is trying for. He works at his Uncle Phil's (Peter Onorati, The Art of Murder, Fallen Arches) where he meets the ultimate in beauty, Hedy (Gretchen Mol, Sweet and Lowdown, Forever Mine). It is easy to understand his infatuation with Hedy, since Mol is one of the most beautiful actors around today. Lenny immediately sets out trying to insinuate himself into every aspect of Hedy's life, either to see her have sex or to actually have sex with her. Mol is also the only actor in Just Looking to show any emotion, albeit it comes only once during a long monologue. Everybody else, especially Merriman, deliver their lines matter-of-factly.

The movie is a lot sweeter than the previous paragraph makes it out to be. Screenwriter Marshall Karp had lots of experience writing for various network sitcoms, and he doesn't really rise above it in his material here. It's almost easy to imagine a laugh-track over the scenes where Lenny learns about sex from other children. As Just Looking progresses, it becomes both sweeter and stranger. Lenny joins a sex club with some local kids; they don't have sex, they just talk about it. Except for his near obsession with sex, Lenny is like most other children. Most people will probably not be able to relate to his strange goal, which in turn will turn them off to the movie. There are plenty of sweet moments, but they come off as a fake, saccharine-like sweet instead of anything containing genuine emotion. By the end of Just Looking, it's not really clear if Lenny learned anything. The movie says he did, but this is probably an attempt to wrap things up nicely.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R for some sexuality, nudity, and language.

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