Tepid dose of girl angst with Woody am­bi­tions

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kather­ine Monk

THE ti­tle is try­ing to be am­bigu­ous, but let me help you: Daryl Wein’s sopho­more fea­ture may as well read Lola Ver­sus the Au­di­ence.

No. That’s not a flip way of say­ing this movie punches you in the face with a hay­maker of stu­pid­ity — al­though, some may feel a tad bruised by the fi­nal cred­its.

It just means so much of what you think about this movie will de­pend on how you feel about its cen­tral char­ac­ter, Lola (Greta Ger­wig), a self­cen­tred col­lege grad who feels her life should have turned out dif­fer­ently.

She thinks she should be mar­ried to Luke (Joel Kin­na­man), the tall, dark and hand­some fella she’s been with since col­lege. Un­for­tu­nately, Luke thinks he needs space three weeks be­fore the wed­ding, leav­ing Lola in a down­ward spi­ral that takes ev­ery­one down with her.

The first char­ac­ter to get a Lola swirlie is Henry (Hamish Lin­klater), the nice guy who al­ways had a crush on her but gets tossed aside like a dirty nap­kin. Af­ter that cy­cle of des­per­a­tion draws to a close, it’s her best friend Alice (Zoe Lis­ter Jones) who gets pulled into the vor­tex.

Given that it was Lis­ter Jones who penned the script, it’s not sur­pris­ing that Alice is the most em­pa­thetic char­ac­ter in this stew pot of 20-some­thing angst. Quick with a quip and loyal de­spite her best friend’s te­dious self-re­flec­tions, Alice feels like she strayed off the set of Sex and the City — and con­tin­ues to ex­ist in the same episodic re­al­ity where life is timed for a joke or a com­mer­cial break.

She’s not hard to take, re­ally, be­cause her lines are witty — even they feel en­tirely like script, and not real life.

Harder to swal­low is Lola, the high-main­te­nance fairy princess at the heart of the film. Lola feels so vic­tim­ized by Luke’s bro­ken prom­ise, she wages bat­tle against the whole world. At first, we’re sym­pa­thetic be­cause it al­ways hurts to get dumped, and Lola’s flag­ging self-es­teem is en­tirely un­war­ranted.

She let a jerk get the bet­ter of her, and that’s too bad, but the dogs bark and the car­a­van moves on.

The prob­lem is Lola can’t let go, and once we re­al­ize just how en­trenched she is in her own mis­ery, the movie starts to feel like an in­grown toe­nail.

So much of the drama on screen is the result of ne­glect or sheer self­ish­ness, mak­ing it hard to keep Lola and her hap­less en­tourage of en­abling nitwits close to the viewer’s heart.

Be­cause Ger­wig is a screen pres­ence with her very own aura, there’s a pull in spite of all the flaws.

Mov­ing around like a lat­ter-day Theda Bara on lau­danum, Ger­wig seems to bump up against the edges of frame and char­ac­ter with all the in­ten­tional in­ten­sity of a cata­tonic.

In some ways, this ac­tu­ally works to the film’s ad­van­tage be­cause it forces us to see how Lola es­tab­lishes her­self as the sun, and sees ev­ery­one else as a loose scrap of space de­bris.

She’s not a bad per­son. She knows she’s flawed and she even has a heart to heart about it with her dad, played by the in­creas­ingly avun­cu­lar Bill Pull­man, but her self­aware­ness doesn’t net any en­light­en­ment.

Inevitably, by the fi­nal frames, the script forces Lola into a new state of con­scious­ness, but it doesn’t seem earned. Nor is it in any way emo­tional.

Ger­wig’s Lola proves a rather empty ves­sel in the end, but at least she floats and proves wor­thy of hold­ing our at­ten­tion — the way one ca­su­ally stares at an empty bleach bot­tle slowly blow­ing across a lake.

It’s not that we re­ally care what hap­pens to it as it bobs along, but the very sight of such trash an­i­mated by the forces around it re­mains fleet­ingly fas­ci­nat­ing, and Ger­wig keeps Lola’s buoy­ancy at just the right level.

Granted, that’s not enough to make this movie more than a tepid dose of girl angst with am­bi­tions of be­ing Woody Allen, but it does make it some­what mem­o­rable.

Star­ring Greta Ger­wig, Zoe Lis­ter Jones and Hamish Lin­klater Globe 14A 87 min­utes

out of five

FOX

Bill Pull­man as the fa­ther of Lola (Greta Ger­wig, right), the self-cen­tred col­lege grad, in Lola Ver­sus.

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