Lola Versus is a breakup comedy disguised as something edgy and different that doens’t quite cut it. Co-written by director Daryl Wein and the actress that plays Alice (Zoe Lister Jones), this quaint film tries to capture the relationship with oneself. Perhaps it is as simple as two takes on a relationship that make that film feel at odds with itself. Lola Versus tries to be a film with a fresh take on the subject but often fails as it fights against the cliches that work for it so well.
Before the title credits begin, Lola Versus starts with the breakup of Lola and her longtime boyfriend, Luke, right before they are about to be married. In desperation and for the rest of the film, she is left to figure out what happened, what she did wrong, and how to get Luke back. As her best friends Alice and Henry (also best friends with Luke) try and sway her away from the past to help her move on, she is caught in the unfamiliar world of being single.
Lola’s biggest problem is herself. Unsure of what she wants to do and what is best, she remains self contained for most of the film. Her most desperate moment comes from post breakup sex with Luke when she cries. We are to gather that she is uptight, as rice chips and macrobiotic foods are what she “binges” on and having been with Luke so long she has never had sex with anyone else. Although uptight, there is never any understanding of how emotionally distraught she is supposed to be; it is different to be told that you are sad versus showing that you are sad. But it is not just Lola that is held back, Luke is a one-dimensional ex-boyfriend that “needs space” while he continues to call her and wants to hang out as he dates other people. His character never warrants the supposed makeup that Lola so desperately wants.
The key players that bring Lola to life are Alice and Henry, making it no surprise (spoiler alert!) that they end up together by the end of the film. Alice is sharp and often outrageous. She says the things that you are subconsciously thinking in films of this genre and gets away with it with such a brazen performance. Henry, as her best friend and Luke’s, remains a trustworthy anchor to both characters even in the situation that he is in. It becomes interesting when Henry and Lola start to date but it quickly becomes one-sided and fleeting before it takes off.
The strangest and therefore most awkward scene in the film is at a party that Lola throws and invites both Henry, who she has recently fought with and maybe broken up with, and Luke who brings his new date - wait, why? This is where the good girlfriend, Alice, should be spouting off how bad of an idea this is, but instead she takes oxycontin and roams off, leaving a forced, awkward scene to take place. I am sure that this is taking from real-life scenarios of encounters with ex-boyfriends but films should at least stylize, humorize, or even criticize the life that we live outside of the movies, not make it more boring or clumsy, which is exactly what this did.
That being said, there are a few brilliant moments in Lola Versus that capture the hardships of breaking up with someone you are so used to. Lola doesn’t want to sleep alone, so she invites Henry to share her bed, which starts their relationship. Anyone who has gone through a breakup understands exactly what this feels like and is welcoming to another warm body, especially if you trust them already. Greta Gerwig is the actress that plays Lola and is perfect as a leading lady. On screen she is both adorable and attractive, very much in the vain of Julia Roberts with her way of capturing sexy and cute at the same time. In some ways she is effortlessly gorgeous and at other times she is not easy to look at - both bode well for Lola in this film but even with Gerwig’s performance, Lola cannot be saved.
In the end, Lola celebrates her 30th birthday as a single woman and yet Luke still shows up in a desperate attempt to get her back. This late in the game, his actions are misleading and forced, again resurfacing the main problem in the entire film - that everyone is so vaguely invested, almost too cool to care, making nothing believable. The film is supposed to speak to anyone that has had a breakup and left to find themselves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t travel to the despair or the comedy of the situation, creating a void of any attachment to these characters and their fake relationships that are only a shadow of what they really are and without the entertainment.
There are many extras on the Blu-ray that are worth taking a look at, especially the deleted scenes. There are actually a lot of expository scenes that were cut from the film that could have worked very well if they were kept in, this includes an alternate ending that is quite good. There are two extras devoted to the characters, one specifically on Greta Gerwig as a leading lady that is nice to watch. Another favorite is the “World Premiere” extra where you see clips from the filmmakers on the red carpet of the Tribeca Film Festival. Other extras include “The Filmmakers” and “Audio Commentary” by the director and co-writer/actress in the film.