New borough, same old whine
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, June 15, 2012
The young actress Greta Gerwig, who was discovered by way of micro-budgeted indie movies and since has been making tentative leaps into bigger-budgeted Hollywood fare (“Greenberg,” “Arthur”), is like a potent extraterrestrial substance that scientists don’t know what to do with. When describing her, the words “incandescent,” “radiant” and “lit from within” come to mind, although Gerwig is not conventionally beautiful. (If anything, she’s beautifully conventional.) With her coltish figure, awkward physical energy and mesmerizing face, Gerwig is brimming with “it” -- that ineffable quality that, if not used wisely, renders her at sea in movies undeserving of her gifts.
“Lola Versus” is just such a movie, although it begins promisingly enough. Gerwig’s title character is just turning 29 and living with her cute artist boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman), who proposes as part of the birthday celebration. Lola gets engaged and begins gleefully planning her wedding with her best friends, Henry (Hamish Linklater) and Alice (Zoe Lister Jones), as well as her parents (Debra Winger and Bill Pullman), when Luke suddenly gets cold feet. The wedding is off by the time the opening credits have rolled.
“Lola Versus” follows Lola during the year that follows as she tries to put her life back together, messing up friendships and the odd incipient romance along the way. Cut from the same cloth as the HBO series “Girls,” the cinematic version features similar narcissistic 20-something characters, albeit ones who inhabit a slightly tonier habitat than Lena Dunham’s proudly downmarket protagonists. Where “Girls” transpires mostly in the hipster wilds of Brooklyn and beyond, Lola and her artsy, overeducated friends troll Manhattan’s West Village and the High Line, all the while whining about their lives.
But whatever the borough, the complaints -- and the quippy jokes they’re wrapped in -- are the same, with off-handed references to kombucha tea, dream therapy, Facebook, high thread counts and Ani de Franco. (Actually, that joke is pretty funny, delivered by the hilarious Ebon Moss-Bachrach, playing one of Lola’s overeager suitors.) There’s even the de rigeur vagina joke, putting “Lola Versus” squarely in the mainstream despite its strenuous attempts to appear edgy.
With its portrait of a young person navigating sex, friendship and selfhood, “Lola Versus” shares a strand of DNA with “Your Sister’s Sister,” also opening Friday (and, also, much better). But by the time Lola has run her thoughtless, self-centered course, the film bears more of a resemblance to the glib, entitled romantic fantasies of “Sex and the City” and, more recently, “Friends With Kids.” Gerwig remains one of the most captivating new stars to hit the big screen, but she’s still looking for a movie that deserves her.
Contains profanity, sexuality and drug use.