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Venice: Julie Delpy’s ‘Lolo’ Offers Crowd-Pleasing Romcom with a Psychotic Twist (Review)

Venice: Julie Delpy's 'Lolo' Offers Crowd-Pleasing Romcom with a Psychotic Twist (Review)

For a number of years now Julie Delpy has been perfecting
her caustically comic voice by playing on cultural
differences between the French and Americans – as co-writer and star of “Before
Sunrise” and “Before Midnight,” and as writer, director and star of “2 Days in
Paris” and “2 Days in New York.”

So it’s with great interest that one sees her directing a
romantic comedy wholly in a Gallic milieu. The result is as brazen and frequently
hilarious as we’ve come to expect from her, if also less sophisticated, as though
Delpy is acknowledging – or succumbing to – the fact that the French do tend to
prefer their comedy in broader strokes.

Delpy is Violette, a Parisian art director and single parent
on a spa holiday in Biarritz with best friend Ariane (Karin Viard), who is
encouraging her dour companion to “get your chimney swept.” Along comes
jug-eared, geeky but romantic IT engineer Jean-René (Dany Boon). Much to her
surprise, the judgmental Parisian falls for her “Biarritz bumpkin.” And when
he gets a new job in the capital, the relationship looks set to blossom.

However, Violette’s 19-year-old son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) has
other ideas. An artist who still lives at home, he pretends to like “JR” while
secretly sabotaging his chances in every way he can. As pretentious and snobbish
as his mum, but also pathologically needy, his efforts become more and more
diabolical.

With her “Before” experience demanding it, Delpy has always
been prepared to acknowledge her age, and aging. Here much is made of her character
being in her Forties – not self-critically, but in the gloriously refreshing
way that it presents middle-aged women talking filthily about sex, with Violette
and Ariane vying to see who can shock the most, and Viard a good match for
Delpy.

Poor Jean-René. While he may have won his chance because “his
dick saved my life,” his chief obstacle
in keeping his girlfriend, which Lolo exploits, is his lack of urbanity. Here
Delpy, with co-writer Eugénie Grandval, replaces the jostle between France and America
with play upon the condescending attitude of Parisians towards anyone who isn’t
from the city, especially French provincials. This will certainly strike a
chord for those who have experienced this hauteur, though Delpy isn’t able to mine
it to the same depth as the earlier culture clash; we’re no longer over-hearing
the exchange of points of view and ideas, merely one-sided barbs. 

In the same way, the slapstick
comedy of Lolo’s psychotic scheming creates much hilarity, though nothing that will stay with you after the closing credits. That said, the fact that Delpy has set the bar high with her previous features shouldn’t detract overmuch from a film that pretty much offers a laugh a minute.

Violette displays the comic neurosis that has inspired some to liken Delpy’s screen persona to a “female Woody Allen.” But,
despite her flaws, she also becomes a softer character than we’ve seen before, a
doting mother who works too hard and has almost given up on the possibility of
love, whose patience towards each of the two men vying for her attention is touching. Alongside her, Boon makes a good fist of a character that could
have simply been a sap, lending Jean-René a decency that helps him prevail. He
even gets away with wearing sandals and socks. Just.

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