Girl Interrupted, by David Bax
That which would be considered the standard, formulaic, base-model studio romantic comedy (I’m thinking here of films starring Katherine Heigl with Gerard Duhamel or whoever as the male lead) are certainly terrible, as a rule of thumb. When I watch them, tend to be alternately annoyed and bored. But I don’t generally feel the anger I experienced while watching Daryl Wein’s Lola Versus because at least those other movies aren’t being disingenuous in an attempt to convince me they’re anything more than the result of a recipe.
Lola Versus stars Greta Gerwig as the title character who, at the film’s beginning, accepts a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman). The next few minutes are taken up by a montage of wedding preparations culminating in Luke calling it all off. After that, we’re treated to Lola’s floundering and subsequent rediscovery while she pours her heart out to her friends Alice (co-screenwriter Zoe Lister Jones) and Henry (Hamish Linklater) while trying her hand at dating some new guys, like Nick (Eban Moss-Bachrach).
In that this isn’t actually a love story about two people but rather a tale about one woman, it isn’t technically a romantic comedy. Yet it shares the same tone and worldview as the films I made reference to above. Its observations about humanity are trite and its jokes are broad and forced. Yet the worst offense is that it does all this with a tinkly indie-bland soundtrack and a whiff of jaded, modern-day, urban bohemia meant to make it appear more alt-minded. Its release under the Fox Searchlight banner seems more like a marketing ploy than an indication of independence of thought or production.
Those attempts at comedy are what really grate on the nerves, though. Simply having a female character make reference to her vagina is not, in and of itself, a joke. There’s an air of desperation in this and other female-driven comedies of the past decade or so; a feeling that they’re trying to gain points by emulating raunchy boy-centric films. A cavalier attitude toward sex and the weirdness of other people’s bodies is far from revolutionary, no matter what gender is doing the sneering. Lola Versus seems particularly offensive for having the misfortune to be released after the premiere of Lena Dunham’s HBO series, Girls, in which unconventional takes on – and adventures in – sex are played not merely for laughs but for insight into femininity in the presence of a post-macho generation of American males, not to mention for actual emotional resonance concerning the characters themselves.
The cast here are not bad apart from the fact that they’ve bought into the movie’s bullshit. It’s the older players who stand apart. Debra Winger and Bill Pullman as Lola’s parents are refreshingly at ease in their roles. Where’s the romance film starring these two?
Wein and company angered me for being unoriginal, containing no insight and pretending to be catering to a smarter audience than they deserve. That’s the kicker, too. If you’re going to lie to a group of sophisticated, discerning media consumers, you’re going to have to try pretty hard. Lola Versus can’t even be bothered to do that.