‘Lola Versus’ Review
It's amazing how just a few weeks of 'Girls' can make a brand new feature film seem dated.
'Lola Versus' is a slightly-better-than-some but still phoney and trite romantic comedy set in an alternate reality New York City that is so well represented in bad low budget comedies future historians might actually believe it is real. To those in the sticks: we don't ALL spend our days moping on the High Line, picnicking in Brooklyn Bridge Park or jabbering about relationships in cafes and gyms. I don't want to alarm you, but it's true.
Surely I should just mellow and understand that it is “just a movie,” but 'Lola Versus' is one of those curious films that doubles-down on audience empathy based solely on us thinking, “wow, could you imagine if that ACTUALLY happened?!” In other words, yes, in “real life” it would very much be a big deal if someone broke off an engagement, but for a feature-length film with one-dimensional character types, the stakes just aren't high enough.
After a musical montage that feels like a trailer for another movie, Lola (Greta Gerwig) is dumped by her fiancee for reasons that, even by the end of the picture, are vague. We are now condemned to watch Lola put the pieces of her life back together again, and this involves a little awkward first dating, a little drinking too much at the club and numerous heart-to-heart walks with her parents and friends. 'Lola Versus' wants very much to be an “honest” film, but if the script were truly honest it would call for the characters to face the camera and announce, “Hey, we're out of ideas. Anyone have suggestions?”
It's not just that you've seen this all before, you've seen it all before with more interesting characters and better jokes. Gerwig, who was quite brilliant in this year's 'Damsels in Distress,' is lifeless as the uninspiring mope, not that dissimilar from her character in 'Greenberg' – a woman who may or may not have been developmentally challenged. In Baumbach's film it made for some interesting transgressions, here it means that our lead is a woman with which spending any time is an unenviable chore.
The movie seems real, real impressed with the fact that the small circle of friends may have some love sparkle within it after the initial breakup. These (surprisingly chaste) moments are given an emotional heft far above their pay grade. Again, for “real life,” yeah, you'd be scandalized that your best friend made out with the woman you were engaged to but dumped – but for a paper thin movie with wacky Bill Pullman playing the Dad.
No one in 'Lola Versus' has a job or any interesting insight into relationships. Many scenes, luckily, feature Zoe Lister-Smith. As the co-writer of the script she's deserving of some scorn but as a comic entertainer she is top notch. This diminutive comedienne has schtick coming out of every pore, just irreverent enough to keep from destroying the film's flimsy reality. She's like a young Andrea Martin and, coming from me, that is very high praise.
I'm not allergic to “relationship pictures.” Heck, that's what Woody Allen's movies are most of the time. But I'm quick to condemn something that clearly has the money and access to terrific New York locations and doesn't know what to do with them. I don't imagine even the most lovelorn, Häagen-Dazs chomping rom com lover finding much to crow about with this one.
‘Lola Versus’ hits select theaters on June 8th
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at Hearst Digital’s UGO for four years and currently contributes to SlashFilm, MTV’s NextMovie and StarTrek.com. He’s made two marginally successful independent movies, is a member of the New York Film Critics Online and was named IFC’s Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast in 2004. Follow him on Twitter at @JHoffman6.