“Lola Versus,” a funky romantic comedy in which nearly everything goes badly for Lola, is all over the place in tone and substance on its journey of self-discovery. Sometimes it’s over the top. Sometimes it’s painfully real. Sometimes it’s trying too hard to be hip or offbeat.
But Greta Gerwig, Hamish Linklater and Debra Winger are interesting actors to watch, and the movie occasionally hits home. If you’re like me, you’ll walk away entertained in spite of the flaws.
Gerwig (“Greenberg”) is Lola, a 29-year-old New Yorker whose longtime live-in boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman), surprises her with a ring one morning in bed.
Lola couldn’t be happier, even as she hashes out wedding plans with her opinionated mother (Winger) and shops dresses with gal pal Alice (Zoe Lister Jones, who co-wrote the script with director Daryl Wein).
But then Luke suddenly breaks the engagement. It all started feeling a little too real for Luke.
“I know change is inevitable,” Lola says in voice-over. “But what if I don’t like change? What if I want my life to stay the way it is?”
Thus begins Lola’s painful journey of figuring out who she is on her own.
Alice, who also bemoans being without a boyfriend, tells Lola she needs to get out there to the singles bars and get physical right away.
Lola’s liberal parents (Bill Pullman plays dad as a bit of a buffoon) get chapter and verse of her flailing around the dating pool as they try to be supportive.
Her close friend Henry (Linklater) becomes her fallback male companion, but the line between friend and lover quickly gets blurred. That’s complicated by the fact that Henry and Luke are best friends, and that Alice is hot for Henry.
And then Luke comes back around looking for second chances.
A guy named Nick (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) who hits on Lola twice when she’s feeling especially vulnerable is the final ingredient in an emotionally explosive formula.
It’s not news that romance and dating can be messy, but Gerwig is really good at playing a combination of sweetness, vulnerability and a sort of detached acceptance of the messed up way things are. “Lola Versus” comes around to Lola versus herself in the search for a new equilibrium.
Expect graphic sexual discussion, a bit of nudity and recreational drug use.
It’s a pleasure to see Winger again, even in a throwaway role, and Jones gets in a couple zingers as the sharp-tongued gal pal. The scenes between Linklater and Gerwig feel more like the real deal than anything else in the film.
The movie suffers from multiple personality disorder, and it wanders. Still, there are laughs to be had and a couple of “aha” moments in watching Lola thrash about while she learns to swim on her own.
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