Lola Versus
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Lola Versus

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Time runs our lives. From the moment we are born a clock is ticking down the finite number of seconds we have remaining. As children the clock measures out how long we have in each class period, as adults similar devices govern our every waking moment from the hours we spend at work to those we can devote to leisure activities. Of all the clocks that rile our lives one that dominates more than most, especially with women is the one known as the biological clock. Various biological imperatives are programmed into us at the moment of conception by the intricate code written in our DNA. Since this is such a universal facet of our humanity this embedded clock makes a perfect foundation for a film. In fact many movies have taken this path as a means to tell their story. Among the more recent was a little independent movie simply titled ‘Lola Versus’. It depicts a young woman’s reaction to the loud, unrelenting sound of her own biological clock and coping with trying to locate the snooze button watching her own anxiety swiftly mount as she realizes there isn’t a snooze function in her reproductive life. It doesn’t even mean wanting to have child at that moment, it is that femininity, womanhood, is inexorably entangled with reproduction. For many women reaching the point where they are no longer reproductively viable is a definition point in life between youth and old age. It is a biologically imbedded double standard; egg production has a limited shelf life but most men merrily crank out their reproductive cells long after youth has faded. The film under consideration here, "Lola Versus’ looks at a young woman, the titular Lola (Greta Gerwig) has just reached the socially treacherous age of thirty with no prospect of changing her status from ‘single’ had little hope of implementation. The film is fairly typical of an independent film that strives to create reasonably realistic slice of life the pacing is occasionally erratic and the story a bit muddled at times but in a very solid sense this is precisely how life unfolds.

At twenty nine years of age Lola (Greta Gerwig), truly believes her life is on track and by all accounts moving along according to her schedule. Lola is on the verge of completing her doctorial dissertation that will launch her professional life. On the personal front her boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman), recently proposed marriage to her. What occurs next provides the axiomatic nature of a quote from John Lennon’s song book, ‘Life is what happens to you as you’re busy making other plans. This stetment is perfectly reinforced here. While Lola is busy planning her wedding her life takes a sudden and drastic turn out of control. First Luke comes down with a serious case of cold feet. His knee jerk reaction is to call off the wedding, for Lola the typical plot of running back to the parental safety of her childhood home is not feasible. Her parents, (Debra Winger and Lenny (Bill Pullman).are unable to provide Lola with the comfort or advice she so desperately needs the distracted young woman is forced to turn to her best friends; Alice (Zoe Lister Jones) and Henry (Hamish Linklater). As Lola tries to redefined the chartered course of her life it begins to dawn on her that this is going to include reexamination of the relationships of her life. The only established aspect of her life is she is rapidly approaching the big three oh and is tragically still single. Having her wedding so close just ripped from her grasp seems to make it even biting.

Lola life unravels but upon closer examination it was never really that ideal. The doctoral dissertation she was about to complete was in 19th-century French poetry, not exactly the most lucrative major in the course catalog. Pursuing this laudably yet fiscally unsound major has limited her current professional position. Her current job offers little in the way of long term stability or satisfaction despite its honorable nature, waitress at a local restaurant. During the course of her self-reevaluation Lola comes to the conclusion that her straight male friend, Henry, is moving closer pulling out of the ‘just friends zone’. Taking a page directly out of the Hollywood romantic comedy play book Lola also comes to the understanding that her ex, Luke, might not be completely out of her life.

I have been a fan of Ms Gerwig for a number of years now greatly appreciating her contribution to the mumblecore movement. This incredibly innovative platform for cinematic expression is minimalistic with the draconian structural confinement seen in the far more extreme Dogma 95. Both provide a tightly regulated tool set for the filmmaker but I always felt while Dogma 95 was an excellent tutorial exercise for the burgeoning auteur but Mumblecore represented a more practical environment. Ms Gerwig had been on the forefront of that movement and seeing her name in the credits had me hoping this would be in the same school. Instead she is has been making the expected transition to more traditional independent films and lower budgeted studio backed distributors; in this case 20th century Fox’s Indy distribution division, Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film takes a subject usually reserved for the subtle approach of an Indy but with the scaffolding of a more mainstream romantic comedy. It took a couple of viewings but I think I understood the direction of the film and I found that once I let go of my own expectations the merits of the film readily presentment themselves.

While the fundamental construction of the story is a fair routine rom-com the execution was much more of a character study than that genre typically presents. Gerwig’s energy and underlying likability make is easy to want to see her character rise to emotional success. The fact that her tribulation is not resolved as readily as the rom-com world would require just infuses the film with honesty that genre so often lacks. It was bound to happen that an independent filmmaker would get around to a more sensitively inclined romantic comedy and director and co-screenwriter Daryl Wein achieved it readily. The script written with Zoe Lister Jones is smartly crafted and quite insightful. Considering both are making the transition from in front of the camera it is obvious they were carefully observing the writers and directors. I thought Ms Lister Jones name sounded familiar, she was one of the central characters in the offbeat TV series ‘Whitney’, a series I greatly enjoyed in large part due to her sense of timing. This was brought over nicely to the script. In his capacity as director Wein kept the pacing unsteady but I found that this honestly reflected the internal uncertainty of the character. His utilization of Indy icons, Bill Pullman and Debra Winger was excellent placing them in roles they have mastered. I can’t wait for the next project by these exceptionally gifted filmmakers/writers. this is a gem of a film, emotionally sincere and well expressed.

Posted 09/11/12

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