There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind would hear Lola ask, "What if I like my life the way it is? What if I don't want it to change?" and feel sorry for the rough time she's going through as a pretty, 29-year-old doctoral student living in Manhattan.
Then there are the rest of us. For simplicity's sake, we'll call the rest of us "realists." By the way, Lola asks her question at the beginning of the movie, so you're going to pick sides on this pretty quickly.
So, boohoo: Her fiancé has decided to back out of their wedding at the last minute. It really is not the end of the world. After all, she's young, on a fast track for a high-level degree, and she's living in a city with several million men. Could be worse.
That's the fatal flaw in Lola Versus, a movie that has many flaws vying for that title: How in the world is this character's pity party worth so much focus? Can't she just—I don't know—grow up? Why does the movie coddle her and think we should, too? It takes Lola (Greta Gerwig) weeks before she can see someone else's engagement ring without crying. She tells an interested prospect that she's going through a really rough time and can't date anybody, and then sleeps with him less than two weeks later, while she's already sleeping with somebody else who isn't her ex-fiancé ... although she also beds him at one point.
It's not that Lola's a slut; she genuinely is emotionally confused. Just ask her: Following every bad decision Lola makes, her reasoning is, "I'm so confused right now," or, "I'm so depressed," or, "I don't know what to do." She leans on her nontraditional parents (Bill Pullman and Debra Winger) and her sarcastic best friend (Zoe Lister Jones) for advice, but they're no better equipped for the real world than she is.
Lola also moves closer to Henry (Hamish Linklater), who already resembled a young Lou Reed in this movie before his band played a gig to reinforce the impression. Of course, since Henry's a man, Lola's wounded heart makes way for open legs in short order. Maybe Lola would have still had sex with Henry, or anybody else, if she were a better-drawn character, but the script seems to indicate it's her lone option. Can Lola only cope with being in some guy's apartment by jumping in the sack? There's no reflection, no lingering doubt, just sex—always played for comedy, too, as if the only way we can relate to this sad woman is to laugh at her poor decisions over and over.
Greta Gerwig is the of-the-moment Indie Queen. She toiled away in some films from the blink-and-you-missed-it mumblecore movement before getting a break opposite Ben Stiller in Greenberg a couple of years ago. Perhaps there's real talent behind her personality, but to this point, Gerwig hasn't done anything particularly challenging. It's hard to judge whether she'll be a standard-bearer for independent films, or if she's just the latest winsome ingénue for whom writers and directors craft well-meaning but predominantly empty movie projects. So far, it's the latter.
The filmmakers behind Lola Versus, Daryl Wein and the sarcastic best friend, Zoe Lister Jones, have issued a statement about the overwhelmingly negative critical reaction to their collaboration. "The male critics are attacking the film," they charge. "We think this has a lot to do with it being a female-driven comedy about a single woman, and the older male critics don't like messy unapologetic stories with women at the center."
Nailed it. Why else would A Separation be the best-reviewed movie of 2011, and why else would critics fawn over Martha Marcy May Marlene, Bridesmaids and The Help last year? Clearly, male critics hate women, regardless of the cinematic circumstances. Of course, there's no way these filmmakers could have just made a silly, stupid movie, is there? It appears that Lola's immunity to reality is genetic—she gets it from her creators.
There are several complaints that could be lobbied about the dull, drippy script. There are definite causes for alarm about how this "independent" film resembles every damn thing Kate Hudson's ever done. And there are several charges that could be issued about the film's lack of perspective about what real women are like. On that point, every prominent character in Lola Versus is nothing but an archetype, with no distinguishable trait that would set them apart from a pencil sketch of the same person—blond Ph.D. student, Kathy Griffin-channeling rom-com best friend, hipster musician and so on.
Critics don't mind messy, unapologetic stories with women at the center; most people, regardless of their job description, just don't like messy movies grasping desperately to redefine modern womanhood in such shallow, thoughtless and unentertaining ways.