It’s very painful having to watch a film like Lola Versus. On one hand you have a very talented actress, Greta Gerwig, giving another stellar performance that’s layered with complex human emotions and lots of uncertainty, and on the other hand you have a film that’s too obsessive compulsive to stick with an emotion for more than five minutes. Gerwig tries her best to keep you interested in the character, but director Daryl Wein eventually loses you as an audience member, leaving you with no one to cheer for and no reason to continue watching this movie.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) is at a life crossroad. She’s just been proposed to by her boyfriend Luke (Joel Kinnanman) and she’s absolutely thrilled for the wedding, but Luke gets cold feet out of nowhere and calls it off. The two split up and Lola goes on trying to piece together whatever life she has left.
She first tries to take her friendship with best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) to the next level, but that doesn’t work out as planned. So she then has sex with a complete random that she knows is a creep and that doesn’t do much for her either.
After ignoring her other best friend Alice for most of the time (Zoe Lister Jones) she eventually gives in and tries to meet a new guy at a bar, but again there’s no result.
There’s really nothing left for Lola to do besides focus on herself. She’s given up on boys, friendships and anything else that’s social, because everything tends to end badly for her, at least at this point in her life.
You’ve got to give a film like Lola Versus some credit for actually depicting some of the more honest ways of answering some of life’s suckiest solutions, but that doesn’t always make for great cinema.
The character of Lola is initially very likable and relatable, mostly because of Greta Gerwig‘s charm, but also because Wein makes her very flawed. She’s us at that brief moment in life when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. To make things even worse she continues to add onto that pile of shit by making some really crumby and ill-advised decisions, but again, we’ve all gone down that road and we’ve all looked back and wondered what the hell we were thinking.
But then the film sinks faster than a sack of bricks in the water. Gerwig’s charm slowly burns out and is replaced with depression and self-pity. You can only make the same mistakes over and over before we get sick of it and want to move on.
Lola doesn’t really move on from this point. She seems to be stuck on the train tracks after getting up and almost escaping several times, only to fall right back down again. This works thematically for one or two times, but after Lola continues to repeat these errors things start to stop mattering.
Greta Gerwig tries her hardest to keep you clinging to the character of Lola, but she’s eventually just another good actor in a bad film. Zoe Lister Alice, who plays her best friend, continues to be the only thing breathing life into the film, which is always a troubled sign. When the obnoxious and annoying best friend starts to be the only redeeming thing in the film then you really know you’ve hit rock bottom.
The two male leads are played by Joel Kinnanman and Hamish Linklater and both men represent different paths Lola can take her love life, yet the characters never fully exist outside of Lola. Kinnanman’s Luke is always seen with other women having a great time, yet for some odd reason he keeps coming back to Lola, despite being the one that broke it off (and reminded her of it) several times. It becomes a little hard to believe.
Linklater does a better job with Henry, the friend turned boyfriend turned back to friend. In his little screen time he’s able to express full emotions for Lola’s character and then get over her and move onto better things. The transformation is quick and yet it still happens over the course of the film, while never being focused upon or given more detail.
Everything leads back to director/writer Daryl Wein and his inability to keep us caring for Lola. She’s the film’s central character and yet about half way in you’ll start wishing they’d swap her out with someone else. I’ve seen tons of films that have given us sleazy and slutty main characters that are dark at the core, yet still worth rooting for. I’ve also seen films that have given us characters that are generally good, but have a tendency to give into old habits easily, but are still watchable because of their overall traits. Lola isn’t either of these examples.
Gerwig matures as an actress and shows us more of her dramatic chops, but her performance is wasted on a film that takes five steps backwards for every one step forward. It’s weakly structured with a likable character that quickly becomes unlikable. I spent most of the film’s last half wondering who I was supposed to care about and then I realized the answer was no one.
Lola Versus – 7/10