Movie Review: “Lola Versus”

 Image“Lola Versus” is a conventionally unconventional romance in the modern mode, alternating between cute and crude and packing a heaping helping of self-affirmation into its 84 minutes.

It’s got that “Where have I seen this before?” familiarity even as it updates an old formula with snappy, slangy and sexual one-liners.

But best of all, it has Greta Gerwig, indie-film’s blonde-next-door. Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “No Strings Attached”) brings that hapless and unhappy neediness thing she does to Lola, and that’s enough.

We meet Lola in a state of bliss — a 29th birthday punctuated by a ring from her live-in beau, Like (Joel Kinnaman). Lola settles into wedding planning, blissfully declaring that she doesn’t want anything to change to come to her life, even if getting married means the biggest change of all to most folks.

Then the change she’s not acknowledging is replaced by the change she can’t miss. Luke bails out of the wedding. Lola grieves, weeps, leans on her ex-hippy parents (Debra Winger and Bill Pullman, terrific), her sassy actress gal-pal Alice (Zoe Lister Jones, who co-wrote the movie) and her rock singer “best friend,” a would-be Eddie Vedder played to great effect by Hamish Linklater.

Lola has been unattached since college — “You’ve never been with anyone else,” Alice complains. Sleeping around “builds character!”

So Lola drinks. And she goes out club hopping. She tries to come off as unavailable — “I can’t be picked up right now.” But she can. And she is.

She barely has time to finish her dissertation on “silence in the media and in popular culture.” Silence? Who has time for that? Lola, as befits an actress who gained fame for her charms in the chatty, self-absorbed films of the “mumblecore” genre, is a character who can’t shut up.

Jones, a screenwriter-actress in the Kristen Wiig mold, gave herself plenty of funny lines as the lovelorn best friend who struggles in pretentious off-off-Broadway theater, hurls herself as the wrong sort of man and loves weed in all its many forms. Her Alice is adorably unfiltered.

“What am I eating? This is just gas in a box!”

The slang and throw-away zingers are the virtues here, as Lola makes her predictable journey from needy to self-reliant, from blaming everybody else to Ms. “I Need to Work on Me.”

And Lola, it turns out, is the perfect Gerwig role. Her Lola is just pretty-enough to pull off those short-short skirts, just flighty enough to make the same mistakes generations of screen women made before her, just clever enough to learn from her mistakes and maybe fit into some arcane corner of academia someday.

Gerwig lets Lola’s insecurity show up only after she’s dumped. We have faith she’ll get it together, even if she will never ever be able to balance her real-women-curves on top of stilletos.

 

 

 

 

“Lola Versus”

MPAA Rating: R for language, sexuality and drug use

Cast:  Greta Gerwig, Hamish Linklater, Joel Kinnaman, Debra Winger, Bill Pullman

Credits: Directed by Daryl Wein, written by Zoe Lister Jones and Daryl Wein. A Fox Searchlight release.

Running time: 1:24

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