Beyond the bad-date stories lie flawed grownups who resemble people we know.
I liked the way "Lola Versus" takes the Lego-piece building blocks of a New York City relationship comedy and turns it into something more asymmetrical and ironic and interesting.
This is a movie about reaching a point in life when you don't know what to do next and you hope falling in love solves that. Lola (played with very complex charm by Greta Gerwig) is 29 and ready to settle down. She lives in the nice Brooklyn apartment of her boyfriend, Luke (Joel Kinnaman), who proposes.
Complications ensue, and Lola finds herself back in the dating pool, half-crazy with bewilderment, desire, frustration and hope. Lola's re-entry to single life sets off a cascade of inter-dating among her network (including snarky, self-dramatizing Zoe Lister-Jones and a nice, shaggy singer played by Hamish Linklater) with hilariously awful results. Through it all, Lola cannot give up on Luke, because she knows that he will love her again -- because she needs him to.
Writer/director Daryl Wein and his co-screenwriter Lister-Jones fashioned their delicious script out of their friends' dating horror stories. The film finds a nice balance between the astringent zingers (which are plentiful) and reality.
I haven't seen a rebound affair as comically humiliating as the hook-up between Lola and Nick (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). He recites Ani DiFranco lyrics in bed. He works at the most appalling profession this side of embalming. He will give you the full-body chills. But hey, a girl who's revenge-dating can't always be picky.
All the supporting roles are fully fleshed and full of spontaneous energy, including Bill Pullman and Debra Winger as Lola's iPad-toting, kombucha-drinking parents.
The casting helps this story enormously. If the lead actors were major stars, their romance would be blessed by divine mandate: We would feel they were made for each other. The rightness of this pair as lovers is less overwhelming. Lola has brains and beauty to spare, but she's kind of a schnook, insecure about her holding power. Gerwig is fearless in showing us Lola, warts and all. Luke has manly-sensitive cred as a painter, and he rocks his tight T-shirts, but he's emotionally reticent. We're not being pressured to fall in love with them. We're being invited to recognize certain elements of ourselves in them.
A traditional movie would devise obstacles to keep its stars apart for 90 minutes. Here, the challenge is to show why, other than inertia, Gerwig and Kinnaman should stay together. The social pressures favoring marriage have evaporated. Far from celebrating lifelong commitment, this smart, laugh-out-loud comedy embodies its improbability. Sometimes love works. Sometimes it doesn't. Until we find something better, what else is there to do?