“Lola Versus” Review
On Lola’s (Greta Gerwig) twenty-ninth birthday her boyfriend proposes, and as the opening credits role we see nine months of planning condescend into a few minutes that have some of the films best lines (a need to make sure the cake’s frosting is made with GMO free milk, her best friend’s promise to fill the bachelorette party with strippers who dance to the soundtrack from Glee) and then without warning her fiance calls it quits, leaving Lola near catatonic on the couch while her friends and family feed her junk food in hopes she’ll have enough strength to get out from under the blankets.
And some soul searching ensues. There’s the wallowing, the inevitable hook-up with her male best friend (played to awkward perfection by Hamish Linklater), the inevitable hook-up with her ex, the inevitable yoga scene where a troubled Lola looks around at the more peaceful posers as she wonders when she’ll be able to get her om on.
What saves the film from it’s predictable trajectory are the wonderfully drawn and terrifically funny secondary characters. Lola’s best friend (Zoe Lister Jones, who also co-wrote the screenplay), an actress and a borderline sexaholic who just wants a boyfriend is a constant source of one liners as well as emotional support for the panicked Lola. Lola’s dad is slightly obsessed with modern technology but ever supportive (showing solidarity for her pain by immediately un-friending him on Facebook). And the film’s best performance comes from Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Nick, who picks Lola up at a fish counter, cooks her dinner, then provides a sex scene so awkward it was almost painful to watch.
There are a few jokes that fall flat (including a Oxycontin mix-up that Arrested Development did before and did better) and situations that seem to be pulled from a NY mag cover story to add to the authenticity of modern new york (Lola’s mom’s unprompted suggestion she freeze her eggs before they shrivel up). It’s nods to kombucha-drinking palates doing NYC life worked best when they were vague and dropped in quickly; Lola asking for “that tea that makes you skinny” seemed real while her profession of love to the macrobiotic fare she grabbed at a food truck seems forced.There were also devices that seemed at odds with the rest of the movie. Lola’s voice-over in the first and final scenes were nice narrative bookends, but a voice-over towards the end did nothing more than explain the obvious, and the “romantic day in the park” montage looked like it was plucked from a 90s teen flick.
Lola Versus is wholly entertaining, and whenever it looked like a cringe-inducing bit of sentimentality was about to takeover the screen, a quirky add on saved it. It doesn’t add anything new to the stock story of a NYC girl trying to find herself, but bringing in something original wasn’t necessary to make it a successful comedy.
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