Just Looking (1999)


Just Looking (1999) Review

Growing up can be difficult no matter what era you are from. Of course, how many of us have heard the old "when I was your age..." speech from someone older than you? But even though the years may move forward, the more things change, the more they can stay the same, as evidenced by this self-proclaimed "semi-autobiographical" look at growing up in the 50's, presented by screenwriter Marshall Karp.

Just Looking is the story of Leny (played perfectly by Ryan Merriman) who is a boy like any other 14 year old, curious about sex. So much so that his goal for the summer of 1955 is to see two people "engaged in the act of love" as he puts it. But his innocent curiosity ends up getting him caught and his mother (Patti LuPone) and stepfather decide to ship him off to "the country" (also known as the Bronx) where he meets a new set of friends who just happen to share a similar interest.

Lenny teams up with the local neighborhood kids who have formed what they call a "Sex Club." It's not that they have any of it, just that they talk about it a lot. Lenny meets an older woman named Hedy (Gretchen Mol), a beautiful nurse that just happens to be a former brassiere model, and he places his odds that she'll be the one to satisfy his goal. Hedy's promiscuous lifestyle with a doctor "friend," combined with the Sex Club's numerous discussions on how things supposedly work only fuel Lenny's desire to see his goal (which has now become an obsession) into a reality.

Directed by Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame, the film is expertly made -- to some surprise. Joseph Franquinha is ideal as Lenny's uncle, and Ryan Merriman does a great job of stumbling through the clumsy but inevitable stages of adolescence. The entrancing Gretchen Mol is truly a treat to watch. Overall, Just Looking has perfect casting all the way through. The story is there, too: It's a delightful film with some tender and thoughtful moments, being an altogether witty, funny, charming, and intelligent look at adolescence and growing up. It honestly entertained me the entire time.

Just Looking takes place at a time when parents would rather spell s-e-x than say it in front of their kids. Times have changed, but the adolescent fascination with sex has not. This is a timeless coming of age comedy that will ring as true for the teens of today as it will for their baby boomer Moms and Dads.

Birds, bees.

Facts and Figures


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