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November 14, 2014

Lola Versus

by Franz Patrick


Lola Versus (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Everything appears to be going well. After weeks of planning their wedding, Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and Lola (Greta Gerwig), who met junior year in college while studying abroad, are set to partake in one of the most important days of their lives. However, a day before their wedding, Luke confesses to Lola that he just doesn’t feel ready. Heartbroken, Lola moves out of their apartment and attempts to reset her life. This proves especially difficult because as she spent a decade nourishing a relationship that she thought would last forever, the world she thought she still knew is now completely different.

Based on the screenplay by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones, “Lola Versus” is yet another story about a newly single woman trying to recover from a bad break-up, but it has just enough off-kilter sense of humor and honesty to be considered somewhat believable.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed that Lola, as quirky as she is, is slightly annoying because her negative qualities make her less cute and more interesting. If the protagonist had been written as a typical sweet girl who did everything the “right” way, it would have made Lola a victim. We would have felt sorry for her most of the time instead of wanting to reach into the screen and shake some sense into her.

I also enjoyed the idea that people in their pre-30s can very well act like teenagers. Sure, adults are more mature in plenty of ways, but a handful of pre-30s that I know are not immune from acting out like children once in a while. This idea is reflected by the bipolar dialogue. For instance, conversations between Lola and Alice (Zoe Lister Jones), the riotously funny best friend, start out slowly and calmly then suddenly we find ourselves barraged by sitcom-like words of wisdom that feel completely out of place yet nonetheless hilarious.

However, about halfway through, I started to wonder if the material had more ambition in its bones. While it remains close to the theme of Lola constantly wanting men by her side (Kinnaman, Hamish Linklater, Ebon Moss-Bachrach), defining her existence around them, her interactions with them fail to reach a sense of variation not in terms of personalities on screen but mood. We rarely get the feeling that she is torn among these men without the camera having to rely on putting Lola front and center while looking sad.

Furthermore, since Lola’s scenes with them are not given appropriate time to unfold or relay the messages that need to expressed, a lot of the scenes feel unnecessary. The sitcom-like comedy sprinkled in between eventually works against the film because situations begin to feel exactly that of a sitcom—boring, superficial, and expected.

Directed by Daryl Wein, “Lola Versus” is playfully intelligent at its best, its one-liners sure to draw a smile on the viewers’ faces, but unbearably eager to be dramatic at its worst. Certainly there are better ways to communicate shame and resentment without showing our protagonist naked and crying just after unexceptional sex.

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