College Times

Lola Versus strikes perfect casting, witty story balance

By Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Published: Friday, June 22, 2012

Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lola Versus

Starring Greta Gerwig, Hamish Linklater and Joel Kinnaman

Directed by Daryl Wein

Rated R

Opens Friday at Harkins Camelview

Grade: B

 “Lola Versus” is a conventionally unconventional romance in the modern mode, a comedy alternating between cute and crude and packing a heaping helping of self-affirmation into its 84 minutes.

It’s got that “Where have I seen this before?” familiarity even as it updates an old formula with snappy and saucy one-liners.

But best of all, it has Greta Gerwig, indie-film’s blonde-next-door. Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “No Strings Attached”) brings that hapless and unhappy neediness thing she does so well to Lola, and that’s enough.

We meet Lola in a state of bliss — a 29th birthday punctuated by a ring from her live-in beau, Luke (Joel Kinnaman). Lola settles into wedding planning, blissfully declaring that she doesn’t want any change to come to her life, even if getting married means the biggest change of all to most folks.

Then the change she’s not acknowledging is replaced by the change she can’t miss. Luke bails out of the wedding. Lola grieves, weeps, leans on her ex-hippie parents (Debra Winger and Bill Pullman, terrific), her sassy actress gal-pal Alice (the funny Zoe Lister Jones, who co-wrote the movie) and her rock singer “best friend,” a would-be Eddie Vedder played to great effect by Hamish Linklater.

Lola has been unattached since college – “You’ve never been with anyone else,” Alice complains. Sleeping around “builds character!”

So Lola sets out to build some character. She drinks. And she goes out club hopping. She tries to come off as unavailable – “I can’t be picked up right now.” But she can. And she is.

She barely has time to finish her dissertation on “silence in the media and in popular culture.” Silence? Lola is the perfect character for an actress who gained fame for her charms in the chatty, self-absorbed films of the “mumblecore” genre. She can’t shut up.

Jones, a screenwriter-actress in the Kristen Wiig mold, gave herself plenty of funny lines as the lovelorn best friend who struggles in pretentious off-off-Broadway theater, hurls herself as the wrong sort of man and loves weed in all its many forms. Her Alice is adorably unfiltered.

The slang and throwaway zingers are virtues here, as Lola makes her predictable journey from needy to self-reliant, from blaming everybody else to becoming Ms. “I Need to Work on Me.”

And Lola, it turns out, is the perfect Gerwig role. Her Lola is just pretty enough to pull off those short-short skirts, just flighty enough to make the same mistakes generations of screen women made before her, just clever enough to learn from her mistakes and maybe fit into some arcane corner of academia someday.

Gerwig lets Lola’s insecurity show up only after she’s dumped. And she lets us have faith Lola will eventually get it together, even if she will never ever be able to balance her real-woman curves on top of stilettos.

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