Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
Heartbreak is a universal concept and I’d be surprised if very many screenwriters hadn’t written a script working out that one, big love that somehow slipped away. Looking back on a project like that five or ten years later, the flaws inherent in making something so personal come to light. This is where editors and perspective are necessary to round out the screenplay and make it more accessible for anyone not directly referenced.
With Lola Versus, director/co-writer Daryl Wein and actress/co-writer Zoe Lister Jones have crafted a deeply personal tale … that falls into the very trap I just mentioned. The film revolves around Lola (Greta Gerwig), her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman), her best friend (Zoe Lister Jones) and another friend/future love interest (Hamish Linklater). Lola is trying to figure herself out and continues to see the world through self-absorbed blinders, fumbling through and wrecking relationships as she goes.
I’m more used to seeing Gerwig in mumblecore movies or as a supporting member of a larger film so it was nice to see her front and center in a narrative piece like this. Her vulnerability and relatability make her perfect for a role like this. There are a few moments where the character breaks down completely that feel forced, but the script and direction seem to be the overlying factors at work. Jones adds a nice comedic touch to the effort and Linklater is almost too sweet and understanding of a guy (ladies, please don’t expect that much from all of us). Kinnaman was a bit less easy to fit into this puzzle, as his detached approach worked for some scenes but not for others. Still, with the inclusion of Bill Pullman and Debra Winger as Lola’s parents, the overall cast did a nice job of working with what they were given.
Speaking of which, there’s a lot of self-reflection and self-loathing in the script, which only adds to the feeling that Wein and Jones were holding onto things very tightly when writing. While the first three-quarters of the film develop nicely and play to Gerwig’s alluring strengths, as well as the rest of the cast, trying to wrap everything up turns into a muddle mess of melodramatic conflict and hurried resolution. The closing section effectively erases what goodwill was generated and the overall result is a movie no one needs to see but those working out their own demons.
Lola Versus is a cutesy title to denote the character working against herself to “find herself”. The film has some nice moments early on but once it’s all said and done, the inability to figure out a good exit strategy dooms the result. Indie film fans can just wait for this to show up on IFC. A theater trip is surely not necessary and it lacks the broader appeal mass romantic audiences generally seem to covet.
Lola Versus opens in theaters in limited release on June 8, 2012 and is rated R for language, sexuality and drug use.