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by Eric Kohn
April 26, 2012 10:31 AM
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Greta Gerwig Salvages Daryl Wein's Generally Forgettable 'Lola Versus'

Unfortunately, nothing else in "Lola Versus" keeps pace. Lister-Jones inhabits the tired part of goofy sidekick that she plays on the execrable sitcom "Whitney" with an endless barrage of one-liners. ("I gotta go wash my vagina," she says casually. Encouraging Lola to date, she tells her friend to meet other guys so she can "let them stick it in you and know what it feels like." And so on.) Then again, at least she has some dimensionality compared to the other secondary castmembers, who mainly stare dumbstruck at Lola's antics and clear the way for her tantrums.

It could be argued that the movie sticks to Lola's narcissistic perspective so only her problems really matter, but "Lola Versus" is too superficial to encourage a close reading. Like "Breaking Upwards," the script contains numerous references to the impact of 21st-century technology on interpersonal communication ranging from iPhone-texting to Facebook-stalking. (When Lola and Alice hit up a grimy nightclub, Alice proclaims that it has landed "number one on Yelp for best bar in a scary neighborhood." And so on.)

One wonders how much the movie will speak to this era in 20 years even though it essentially reduces it to simplicity. While "Breaking Upwards" used the techno-speak to tap into the essence of modern romance, "Lola Versus" only contains it to remind viewers of the contemporary setting. The movie works hard to amuse at the expense of its credibility. It has no new ideas.

Instead, "Lola Versus" deserves the bulk of the ire being misdirected at the new HBO series "Girls," which at least deals with its overprivileged young white urbanities in a (some might say radically) self-aware fashion. By comparison, even when "Lola Versus" nails that sense of free-falling in the wake of a lifestyle shake-up, it's inoffensively familiar. Funny moments abound, but it never strays from predictability. With its blasé resolution and a tidy lineup of sitcom-ready characters, the best thing one can say about "Lola Versus" is that it successfully underwhelms.

Criticwire grade: B-

HOW WILL IT PLAY? Fox Searchlight releases "Lola Versus" on Friday. Although the company is known for its clever marketing tactics, Gerwig's star power might not be bright enough to carry this one to much business beyond its opening weekend.

Editor's note: A version of this review originally ran during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Watch the "Lola Versus" trailer below:

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  • Patricia Shen | June 5, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    I agree with the reviewer. There is not clarity or any value message. The predictability of the plot. makes for a good cliche

  • Bitter Poor Bangladeshi Wannabe Filmmaker | June 5, 2012 9:17 AMReply

    Tired of all these so called indie films dealing with rich people in a fake and white washed version of New York City. It's shameful these filmmakers can't see past their own living room and ignore the diverse world around them. It's time to level the playing field. Demographics are changing rapidly and exponentially. We have to get more voices from all walks of life behind the camera or American indie film will be left behind. Or has it already been left behind?

  • Sophie | June 4, 2012 8:26 PMReply

    I agree. The movie isn't very good and frankly, I'm shocked Fox Searchlight is releasing it. I do think that Greta Gerwig is watchable but I don't think she "salvages" the movie. No saving this one. The movie is full of itself and annoying.

  • diane | June 4, 2012 3:24 PMReply

    Jess: I saw this picture. I found myself trying to differentiate the character of the protagonist from a caricature. I think the movie does not portray reality in NY. I lam a 27 old woman leaving in NY.
    Good review.

  • Jess42 | April 29, 2012 2:15 PMReply

    This review is dead wrong. It completely misses the point. I loved this film. It was hilarious, smart and totally unconventional. You never see a complex single woman story like this that feels real. The tone was really off beat and interestint, too. I totally related as a 28 yr old girl in NY. Every relationship movie is about the girl pining for the guy, and this flips that on its head, which makes it unique. Cast is fabulous and writing is sharp. GO SEE IT!