The pros and cons of LOLA VERSUS
I’m not versus LOLA VERSUS. I basically found it engaging. But even a freewheeling labor of love like this can have an occasional run in its pantyhose.
In addressing the comedy—about a woman about to turn 30 who gets dumped by her fiancé and requires a complete lifestyle revamp–I’ll start with the negatives, just to get them out of the way.
- Some of the scenes seem like random matchups between people talking. So we’ll see Lola (Greta Gerwig) talking with her best friend, Alice (Zoe Lister Jones, who cowrote the movie with director Daryl Wein). Then Lola and her ex (Joel Kinnaman). Then Lola and Henry (Hamish Linklater), a friend she starts dating. Then Lola and Zoe again. Then dad (Bill Pullman) will pop in to give Lola some words of advice. Then Alice and Henry will confront Lola. And so on. I know that movies by necessity happen to consist of various people talking, but rarely as aggressively as in this film.
- *Similarly, glib, arch dialogue is lots of fun—and Lola does it well–but it can be a little relentless when it comes at you at such glib, arch force.
- *SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
The old “I need to spend time with myself” device feels almost as clichéd as the “Let’s get together for a happy ending” one.
But there’s plenty to hug here, so LOLA is definitely worth a date. Wein has said that he and Lister Jones watched the 1978 Paul Mazursky abandonment classic AN UNMARRIED WOMAN starring Jill Clayburgh and felt, “Why don’t they make films like this anymore?” So they set out to do so, unafraid to present a leading lady who’s kind of messy and still learning how to undo that.
The flick puts her in situations that seem pretty genuine, also dotting the plot with some funny absurdist bits. (The performance piece called Pogrom! is a scream, as is Lola’s attempt to make sangria out of wine and some sliced apples.) And Greta Gerwig is direct, unmannered, and very appealing (though this doesn’t feel like the breakout hit she’s destined for). It’s funny Wein mentioned the Mazursky film because I’ve long felt Gerwig would have flourished even more in the ‘70s; she would have been a natural to work with expressionistic directors like Robert Altman. But I’m glad we have her now, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’d be versus that opinion.