Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
June 14, 2012
**1/2 (out of four)
Does an all-over-the-place character necessitate an all-over-the-place movie?
I don’t think so, though “Lola Versus” almost succeeds in embracing life’s messiness even when the film possesses no more perspective and wisdom than its spiraling main character. Shortly after her 29th birthday, Lola’s (former Chicago resident Greta Gerwig of “Damsels in Distress”) life splinters into emotionally scattered pieces when her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) ends it and her relationship with her best male friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) and best female friend Alice (co-writer Zoe Lister Jones) move backward in the simplicity department.
These relationship dynamics do not scream freshness, and one contrived pairing in particular suggests the opposite of what these passive-aggressive characters say, that they make each other calm. “Lola Versus” over-complicates both its plot and its dialogue, faring better with funny bits of truth like when Alice, leaning against a bathroom wall, tells Lola, “this is very, very dirty,” than with forced quirkiness about Alice’s drug use.
Yet the movie’s more revealing than it usually allows itself to be, recognizing many different forms of mistakes that register as such seconds too late. Already building a career founded on naturalistic characters whose flaws exist not far below the surface, Gerwig makes likable a character who could have descended into self-interested mayhem. She won’t catapult into the mainstream like Zooey Deschanel did with “(500) Days of Summer,” but her openness turns Lola’s flailing search into something relatable, if people can admit that they’re relating to her.
So it’s disappointing that Lola, doing a PhD dissertation on silence in 19th century French literature and the lack of silence in modern pop culture, superficially lets people off the hook while missing the lesson in front of her face. Silence lives on in the cowardly things that go unsaid between friends and more-than-friends who’d rather apologize later than maintain common courtesy and act in an interest other than their own.
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