Zimbio Review - 'Lola Versus,' Cute but Contrived

Tribeca Film Festival 2012 Portrait Studio - Day 7
(L-R) Actor Hamish Linklater, actress Greta Gerwig, writer/actress Zoe Lister Jones and writer/director Daryl Wein of the film 'Lola Versus' visit the Tribeca Film Festival 2012 portrait studio at the Cadillac Tribeca Press Lounge on April 25, 2012 in New York City. (Getty Images)more pics » The Bottom Line
Should you see it?


Shallow and self-aware, Lola Versus contains a fine performance from Greta Gerwig but remains emotionally unspectacular.
Caught in the screen-unfriendly world of post-breakup, and pre-thirtysomething female angst, Lola Versus wants to be something much more than it is. Containing a disturbing amount of cheeky hipster dialogue, the film is too self-aware to be what it wants to be: an authentic look at modern women and their realtionships. It is, instead, a meta-version of a well-penned sitcom.

One of Lola Versus' best scenes is its very first. Alone on a beach, Lola (Greta Gerwig), surveys the sand and watches as a slew of shoes and vibrators are washed up on shore. Is this a metaphor for the darkest corners of Lola's universe, her materialism and shame merging out of the vastness of her subconscious for all the world to see? Maybe, but the rest of the film proves Lola isn't that deep, no pun intended, and the beach scene is merely a funny way to get a bunch of dildos onscreen.

Lola awakens from her beach dream on her 29th birthday to her boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman), whispering in her ear and telling her she doesn't look older, she looks like J-Lo , who is in her 40s. Ah, hipster pillow talk... how romantic! Things get really romantic when Luke proposes and sends Lola and her best friend, Alice (co-writer/producer Zoe Lister Jones), into a engagement bliss that finds them doing all those things that engaged girls do. That is, until Lola comes home to her posh NYC loft and Luke drops the bomb: he just can't do this.

Related Articles:
Co-writer/director Daryl Wein and Jones made their first film about relationships, breaking up, and the dating game, Breaking Upwards, on a $15,000 budget. They wrote and starred in that film and based much of it on their real life tribulations. Choosing to return to the same, familiar subject matter here with their sophomore collaboration, the writing team proves they know how to polish their style, but are unwilling to do so with any depth. They're too busy waxing faux-philosophic with lines like, "Men are looking for something better, and women are looking for whatever works." I found myself not only insulted, but bored, by Lola Versus' silly generalizations masked as "insights."

Dubbed a rom-com by the marketing execs at Fox Searchlight, the film is the opposite of romantic and not funny enough to be a comedy. It's stuck halfway between like, well, Breaking Upwards. As Lola slinks into her post-breakup depression, it's more sad than funny watching her sleep around and whine, blaming everyone but herself for her troubles.

Crying on the shoulders of Alice, her male BFF, Henry (Hamish Linklater), and her parents (Debra Winger and the mulleted Bill Pullman), Lola struggles to get over Luke while trying to finish her dissertation (on silence in the work of Stephane Mallarme of all things). Lola eschews the traditional stages of grief and wallows in depression. Movie depression that is. She's about as depressed as a white girl who lives in New York City, has tons of friends, a job, two parents (still married!), and an impending Ph.D. can be. Which is to say, of course, her depression is to be laughed at, not empathized with.

Lola Versus is not without some strengths. Talented cinematographer Jakob Ihre's lens finds new and exciting ways to shoot New York City and the film is lit beautifully. Gerwig's performance, while not entirely believable, is admirable. She is a talented actress and conveys much with her puppy dog stares and pursed lips. She makes Lola eminently charming, an enormous feat for a character that's not very likable. The rest of the supporting cast does little to stand out, save for Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who plays one of Lola's rebound suitors. He's the perfect kind of weirdo: a rollerblading well-endowed prison architect who picks Lola up at a smoked fish shop and shares the film's funniest scene with her as they dine at his apartment. Wein and Jones give him a great name: Nick Oyster.

 Unfortunately, the Nick Oysters of the film are few and far between. Jones plays essentially the same wise-cracking sidekick she plays on NBC's awful sitcom, Whitney. Linklater has one great scene performing with his band, but is otherwise forgettable. Winger and Pullman are wasted, amassing about 3 minutes of collective screen time. Kinnaman, who is the one great thing about AMC's The Killing, is not given much to work with and is relegated to looking pretty.

Meanwhile, the script dates itself with way too many iPhone texting scenes and mentions of Facebook and Yelp. High school kids may find some of this stuff cute, but any thinking person will cringe. Woody Allen wrote the book on NYC angst within the realm of unrealistic but intellectually hilarious dialogue. Wein and Jones' dialogue is just unrealistic. Altogether too clever for its own good, Lola Versus is a noble effort, but suffers under the weight of its self-awareness.

See more photos of Greta Gerwig:
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
  • Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus" - 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
Senior Editor at Zimbio. I'll take Johnny Clay, the Rev. Harry Powell, and Annie Savoy. You can have the rest.