This fictional autobiography is a searingly personal look at a bisexual actor who is searching for affection while struggling with body image.
It’s characterized as a fictional autobiography, but Look at Me hews closely to the real story of the film’s writer and director Taylor Olson. Adapting his solo play, Heavy, Olson used the technique to tell his story with as much honesty and vulnerability as possible.
Onscreen Taylor isn’t much different from the real Taylor. He’s an actor who’s constantly obsessing on his self-image. When he gets ready to go out on auditions, he questions everything. Will he be the right type? How will he look to them? And the big question: Will they accept him?
He’s also looking for someone who will love him for his authentic self, body shape and all. Male or female — it doesn’t matter. We see him making awkward attempts at reaching out to others. He either moves too fast and repels them or retreats back into his own mind and pushes them away.
This all happens as he’s struggling with his other personal issues: binge eating, bulimia and the guilt it engenders. He examines his body frequently, limits his food intake and lifts weights obsessively in an effort to reshape himself into someone “acceptable.”
The film is stylishly shot. Olson’s DP, Tim Mombourquette, lensed it in black and white at various aspect ratios. According to Olson, B&W film is evocative of memories — and it gives the story a “once upon a time” feel. Squeezing the aspect ratio at various points gives a feeling of claustrophobia to match the character’s emotion when he feels boxed in by his own struggles.
Look At Me is also engagingly put together. Sometimes it feels like a music video; sometimes it feels like a film straight out of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Although there are other characters in the film, Olson is front and center the entire time. We find ourselves consistently rooting for him, even when he’s unintentionally cruel to others. Hey, we’ve all been there.
It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is or how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. Look at Me contains universal truths that speak to everyone, and that’s what makes the film so effective.
Reviewed for Slamdance 2024 (world premiere). It screens Sunday, Jan. 21 at 12:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the LUMIX Theater @ Yarrow Hotel. More information can be found on the Slamdance website.
Photos courtesy Afro Viking Pictures.