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NEW YORK — A breakup-breakdown comedy providing a welcome showcase for Greta Gerwig, Daryl Wein‘s Lola Versus marks a strong step up for Wein and his returning Breaking Upwards co-writer Zoe Lister-Jones. Convincing in its depiction of late-20s romantic anxiety (if not of that age bracket’s real estate realities), it is broadly appealing without bowing too deeply to formula.
On the morning of her 29th birthday, Lola (Gerwig) wakes from one dream (she’s doing yoga on a beach strewn with high heels and sex toys) to find another: Her loft-dwelling, adoring and handsome boyfriend (Joel Kinnaman) wants to marry her.
Just as plans for the big day are made and paid for, though, the fiancé gets cold feet, leaving Lola to flounder through a year of anxiety eating and poor decision-making. As the movie’s title suggests, Lola has a hard time figuring out who exactly is standing between her and the “real life” she imagined for herself.
Gerwig is predictably charismatic in ambivalence, and viewers will find it easy to identify with her wounded slide into the arms of best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater, nicely cast as a good guy balancing friendships with both Lola and her ex). Describing him as not a rebound but a “layup,” Lola leads Henry to believe they have a chance (an illusion Wein enhances with a happy montage through the streets of New York) but is simultaneously sabotaging herself.
The movie’s humor is low-key throughout, less about hijinks than the kind of throw-your-hands-up attitude that might inspire a frustrated waitress (Lola helps at her mom’s restaurant) to throw whole apples in a pitcher of wine and call it sangria when diners persist in ordering Spanish drinks in an Italian restaurant. Lister-Jones, playing Alice, offers a sharp-elbowed take on the familiar best-friend role, getting more than her share of laughs by refusing to pretend Lola’s the only one with a troubled love life.
The script is particularly strong in its last act, avoiding easy fixes and new romance and instead allowing its heroine to act out just enough to finally get tired of herself. Its solitude-is-okay message is hardly novel, but Wein’s comfortable way of reaching that point will resonate with viewers still trying to achieve that particular brand of enlightenment.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, Spotlight
Opens: Friday, June 8 (Fox Searchlight)
Production Company: Groundswell Productions, Fox Searchlight
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Joel Kinnaman, Zoe Lister-Jones, Hamish Linklater, Bill Pullman, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jay Pharoah, Debra Winger
Director: Daryl Wein
Screenwriters-Executive producers: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein
Producers: Michael London, Jocelyn Hayes Simpson, Janice Williams
Director of photography: Jacob Ihre
Production designer: Teresa Mastropierro
Music: Fall On Your Sword
Costume designer: Jenny Gering
Editor: Suzy Elmiger, Susan Littenberg
R, 86 minutes
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