Director: Daryl Wein
Runtime: 87 minutes
With films from Wes Anderson, John Madden and Richard Linklater dominating the indieplex, it is easy to see why Lola Versus has gotten lost in the shuffle. The summer movie season is tough for films of this ilk, and it’s even more difficult for films as tedious as this one, an uncomfortable, unfunny and smug movie about relationship troubles.
After her fiancé Luke (The Killing‘s Joel Kinnaman) calls it off soon before the wedding, Lola (Greta Gerwig) gets thrown into a tough 20-something’s tailspin. Will she end back up with Luke? Will she go with their shared hipster buddy Henry (Hamish Linklater, who also played an annoying nerd in the superior Battleship)? That’s about all of the film’s drama, and none of it ever means much, or ever adds up to a watchable film.
When your movie makes Greta Gerwig dull, you know you have a deathly problem. Even in the forgettable remake of Arthur, Gerwig managed to entertain. Not only that, when playing up the flaws of a character, like in Whit Stillman‘s terrific Damsels in Distress, the Greenberg actress still came out lovable. It is difficult to find empathy in Lola, because the film isn’t aware of how mean she is.
Oblivious and indecisive are basic, empathetic human traits that Lola has, but there is also a mean-spirited side to her and certainly to director Daryl Wein‘s lifeless approach. There is an oddball character named Nick in the film whom Lola hooks up with, and Wein and his co-writer Zoe Lister-Jones (and Gerwig’s co-star) loathe this character even more than Lola does. There’s nothing inherently bad about Nick, but Wein and Jones go as far as they can to make fun of him, making him act as ridiculous as possible.
Painted in such loud strokes, many of the characters aren’t played as people, but caricatures. When Wein and Jones attempt to humanize one of their walking-and-talking jokes, like Jones’s kooky-friend role, it comes too late. Writing like this makes Lola Versus worse than the mechanical rom-roms of Katherine Heigl‘s filmography, because it has the audacity to presume it is better than them. Jones’s hollow role becomes even more hollow when they try to play her as a real person. A Heigl rom-com knows what it is. Wein’s film does not.
Lola Versus is a mere 87 minutes long, but it feels much longer than that. The obnoxiousness on display here makes one squirm in one’s seat, urges a peek at your watch and makes one’s thoughts ponder what will be the next meal, a far more exciting topic than what’s on display. If the film had been as engaging as Lola’s choice at the end, Lola Versus and its characters wouldn’t be such a chore to endure.
Lola Versus is now in limited release.
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