LOLA VERSUS – The Review
Greta Gerwig needs a new agent. The indie darling, the “Mumblecore Muse” was on a winning streak after BAGHEAD, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and GREENBERG. She’s a likeable, unaffected presence; a foxy, flaky ingenue whose films I looked forward to, but something’s gone horribly wrong. Ms Gerwig was somehow convinced to sign on for the ill-advised ARTHUR remake, then Whit Stillman’s disastrous DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, and now LOLA VERSUS, a smug, wretched hipster comedy that’s another giant waste of her considerable charms. The script for LOLA VERSUS, from director Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones, finds Gerwig as the 29-year old eponymous character who lives that perfect Manhattan lifestyle I suspect only exists in movies. She has a spacious, impeccably decorated apartment even though sheâ€™s a PhD student (her dissertation is on “silence in 19th century French literature – yuk yuk) and she’s engaged to the handsome Luke (Joel Kinnaman) until he gets a sudden case of cold feet, dumping her three weeks before the big day. Feeling lost and hopeless, poor Lola mopes in bed for a few weeks before taking up, and sleeping with, her awkward friend Henry (Hamish Linklater - so good in last year’s THE FUTURE - just a dork here). Soon our heroine’s fiancee crawls back into the picture, begging for a second chance which leads to conflicted feelings, self-pity, shallow dialog, and boredom. Yes, LOLA VERSUS is another quirky indie about a quirky character sorting her life out with the help of her quirky friends and quirkier parents (Bill Pullman and Debra Winger). What it’s really about though is Lola’s obsession with having a boyfriend at all costs, convinced that it’s her only path to happiness. “Even the homeless women at the shelter have boyfriends” Lola whines. She’s taken the fruits of feminism for granted: independence, equality, the right to sleep around, etc, and is still one miserable crybaby. Gerwig plays Lola like a kicked puppy as if, no matter how poor her own decisions may be, you’ll simply feel sympathy for her because she’s so darn cute. The central philosophy of LOLA VERSUS fits well with today’s “me-first” attitude, but movies like this that are only about airing out the boring laundry of a spoiled beauty seem unnecessary.
There may have been some good comic and dramatic possibilities in LOLA VERSUS if the writing had been sharper, but the main problem is indeed the trite script which is isn’t even up to par with the average Friends episode. It’s unambitious, unfunny, and full of sitcommy obvious life lessons. I suppose co-writer Zoe Lister Jones, who costars as Lola’s best friend Alice, thought she was giving herself the best lines with gems like “I’m going to go wash my vagina now”, but that character is so coarse and abrasive that you just cringe when she shows up on screen. Worse is Ebon Moss-Babrach as a creepy rollerblading potential suitor who engages in some witless dialog about how his enormous penis is the result of being an incubator baby. Cinematographer Jakob Ihre does a good job making Manhattan seem like a sunny, happy place, but his fine work ultimately accentuates a film in which nothing else works. LOLA VERSUS is a muddle of a movie – an overlong bore that either mistakenly thinks it’s something more than a humdrum rom-com or has incorporated a variety of pretentions as window-dressing. Perhaps the most damning indictment I can offer regarding LOLA VERSUS is that it’s interminable. As the 89-minute running time stretches toward what seems to be infinity, the average viewer is likely to glance and his or her watch with increasing frequency. I still like Greta Gerwig and LOLA VERSUS, as bad as it is, is hardly a career-killer for this winning actress but I think she should be more careful about the scripts she chooses.
1 1/2 of 5 Stars