One of the great things about the Alamo Drafthouse is their specialty programming, and one of their regular series, Master Pancake Theater, involves comedians making fun of popular films while they’re playing on the big screen. This is always a great experience, but it often leads me to sit through movies I wouldn’t have seen under any other circumstances, like Twilight and Sex and the City. But in this case, it does allow me to knowledgeably say that Lola Versus is essentially the same as Sex and the City except that Lola (played by Greta Gerwig) has fewer friends.
Lola isn’t a particularly motivated person. Most of her post-college years have been spent aimless and only occasionally in the employ of her mother (Debra Winger) at her restaurant. She’s been dating Luke (Joel Kinnaman) long enough that it’s become monotonous, and her friends Henry (played by Hamish Linklater, and apparently one of Luke’s only friends) and Alice (Zoe Lister Jones) aren’t exactly climbing the corporate or social ladders themselves.
But perhaps there is some hope. Lola has recently returned to school in hopes of getting a Ph.D. in literature (although that isn’t exactly going to open a whole lot of career paths for her), and Luke finally proposed. Unfortunately, her marriage hopes are dashed when Luke backs out late in the process, leaving Lola angry and depressed and Henry caught in the middle as a mutual friend. The next several months are to be filled with alcohol and bad decisions.
Lola Versus is quite possibly the longest 87-minute movie I have ever seen. The four main characters in this film are all vapid losers, although occasionally hiding behind a shell of intellectualism. Hippie culture is on prominent display through artistic bents (Lola’s literature studies, Luke’s painting, Henry’s music, and Alice’s acting), free love, substance abuse, yoga, ingestion of horrific vegan matter, and general atmosphere. Lola’s parents (and especially her father, played by Bill Pullman in a role that may be the most enjoyable part of the film) are hippies themselves and clearly passed it on to her, but it’s not clear why the others act that way.
It’s hard to see any real purpose to the film. Its plot, which follows Lola and her friends through a series of failures and poor choices, isn’t very compelling, and Lola’s big realization at the end of the film is something that is blatantly obvious to the audience from the beginning. There is occasionally an amusing turn of phrase that keeps it from being a complete waste, but it’s certainly not funny enough to justify seeing it on comedic merit.
At least Sex and the City knows that it’s not a good movie and doesn’t hide behind a veil of false sophistication. Plus, it had characters with understandable motivations and occasional nudity. While it may be a better film, the only thing Lola Versus really has to offer is worthless people making bad choices.