On the one hand I have to give credit to “Lola Versus”—a new indie romantic comedy, directed by Daryl Wein from a screenplay by Wein and Zoe Lister Jones—for at least attempting to feature a story about a young female protagonist learning to embrace being single. In almost all rom-coms these days, the woman has to end up with a man, but “Lola Versus” has the exact opposite outcome.
And Greta Gerwig (an actress known for being mostly in indie comedies in supporting roles) does the best she can in the title role of Lola--a woman who has been recently dumped by her fiancé weeks before their wedding and who now has to face the world of being single—adding some intelligent indie quirky charm. However Wein and Lister Jones seem to rely too heavily on her because there really isn’t much of a movie around her and what little there is all familiar.
“Lola Versus” is yet another New York city set comedy, in which Lola bounces around the familiar nooks and crannies of the city hanging out with her small group of friends, going to low-key rock concerts, art galleries and restaurants. First Lola is scared, because she hasn’t been single in years. When she goes out to a club with her best friend Alice (Lister Jones) she has a panic attack. Then her ex fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnerman) wants her back, but she rejects him. Then she wants to hook up with her guy friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) but then she thinks that’s going too fast. Then she wants to be back with Luke, and then not. Soon she’s going on a blind date with a weird guy who knows a lot about salmon. Then she’s back with Henry again. There’s not enough to the story, so it meanders around in circles. And by the time it gets to the realization that it’s ok to be single the moment isn’t strong enough.
Worse, the location isn’t the only familiar thing about “Lola Versus.” Every single supporting character is someone you would find in a mainstream rom com. Henry is the sensitive, supporting male friend and Alice is the kooky best friend who provides most of the jokes and pop culture references. Bill Pullman and Debra Winger even show up as Lola’s loopy parents. These people start out as caricatures and remain caricatures because they’re there for Lola’s sake only. It’s all about Lola! And as the movie goes on she becomes so annoying and mopey that you don’t care what happens to her.
Look, Wein and Lister Jones obviously have good intentions with “Lola Versus,” and in the long run it won’t harm anyone. Chances are this movie will open and then evaporate within weeks. But the film is so miniscule in scale, and the setting and characters aren’t interesting enough to make up for it. The movie has the coarse, homemade appearance and the eccentricity of an indie comedy but in the end it’s just as generic as a mainstream one.