And Lola Versus does play like a cool-kid version of an old romantic comedy: it begins with heartbreak and moves toward the heroine’s fulfillment. It gets all the old satisfying beats right; there’s a narrative reason, after all, why the protagonist needs a best friend/confessor, and why there need to be obstacles in the path to happiness. We haven’t come that far from My Best Friend’s Wedding and the like, and the best romantic comedies wring real emotion from obvious fakery. Perversely, the “realness” of Lola Versus is its greatest stumbling block. Realness is in quotes here as the writers and director clearly believe they’re portraying a young person’s reality by having Lola stride down a beach covered in garbage, or eat hot wings at the strip club, or have inane Styles-section-trend-piece conversations with her mother about freezing her eggs. Were everything in this movie that strives to portray the reality of a hip woman dialed down from 11, this movie would be able to give a better notion of who the enigmatic Lola character really is. The film could be what it aspires to be: a cool person’s romantic comedy. It’s not cool to try too hard, after all.
Ms. Gerwig is not a big enough star to headline the big-budget version of this movie; nor, really, would she fit in there. She is not an actress who has, yet, stretched herself to fit dramatically different milieus—until she ages out of the part, she’ll be playing cool single women with something broken inside. Certainly there are many performers who’ve stuck with one sort of role. The joy can be in the variation, the discernible but subtle shading. But Lola Versus, though eminently watchable, doesn’t ask Ms. Gerwig for shading so much as an entire emotional rainbow, racing through a range of ever-changing motivations occasioned by the script. This role bears all of the problems a Greta Gerwig character could face, wrapped up under 90 minutes. The actress nearly pulls it off—but, ultimately, Lola has too much against which to struggle.
Running Time 87 minutes
Written by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones
Directed by Daryl Wein
Starring Greta Gerwig, Joel Kinnaman and Hamish Linklater
Three out of four stars
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