Versus Lola

by Jessica Hopper

Last week, an email leaked from the writer-director team behind Lola Versus, that complained about possibly sexist reviews from male critics that hurt the opening box office of their single-gal-finds-herself flick. Comments were made ‘round the internet alleging that the movie was just plain shitty and they were playing the sexism card as an excuse. I headed to the multi-plex to see just who was zooming who — why were male critics hating so hard and was the reaction to the leaked email gaslighting the Lola Versus folks?

The movie starts like a typical Hollywood rom-com about a betrothal, with a dreamy proposal from a hunky man (waddup, shirtless Detective Holder from The Killing) and some giddy say-yes-to-the-dress bullshit. The main difference is it’s Greta Gerwig as the titular Lola and the guy that played Miranda July’s husband in her last movie — quirky indie actors. Not like Anna Faris and Chris Evans groomed within an inch of their blonde lives. That’s pretty much where they unhitch the wagon. Detective Holder breaks up with Lola shortly before their wedding and we watch her spin out for the better part of the year. She does some movie-typical stuff (takes advice from wise cracking gal pal, has trying-on-a-million-outfits montage) and then some actual girl typical stuff (stays drunk, sleeps with her best guy friend). My favorite part of the movie is where she yells at the guy she’s been smanging that just because she’s a slut doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. I also appreciate casting Debra Winger (luv her) as Lola’s mom. Lola mopes, has a post-coital cry sesh after a round of ex-sex, defends her dissertation, eats wings at a strip club, tries to fuck her way out of her sadness. The movie’s final act is her revelation that being alone is not the end of the world: she opts not to take Detective Holder back. He will have to go back to AMC channel and hunt Rosie Larsen’s killer as a lonely man… And Lola lives on! Solo! Hapless and wacky, her dissertation in the can! And it avoids the cliché of ending with an at-the-altar scene. Huzzah.

It wasn’t the best movie ever made, but it was better than the last four hours of The Avengers, so there is that.

Isn’t that what we want in a movie, a little nuanced liberation and fewer shopping montages? To have some movies of girl-life feel realish and not like the script was actually a decoupaged collage made from pages of women’s magazines and Penthouse Forum? To maybe even a watch a movie about a lady who doesn’t want to get married? DARE TO DREAM, WIMMIN!

The Lola Versus folks may not be able to correlate their lagging box office directly to the bad-to-awful reviews that they got from mostly male critics, who gave it a collective HELLS NAW and did some deep shitting upon the little film, but the facts of a critical gender split on the movie remain: of the 64 Google-able reviews of the film that were written by men, 65% of them were negative. In comparison, of the 39 reviews by women, 79% of them were positive. The unifying theme of the critique? There can be only one show/movie with a quirky single lady having questionable break-up sex in New York, U.S.A. — and that show is Girls.

A quick stroll through some of the notable negative review finds consensus — once we have seen Girls, we should be sated. Lena Dunham, uber alles.

“This is the kind of cutely alienated indie relationship comedy that Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls has made irrelevant.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Lola Versus” deserves the bulk of the ire being misdirected at the new HBO series “Girls.” — Indie Wire

“It’s all like an extended episode of “Girls,” minus that series’ self-lacerating sense of humor.” — New York Film Critics Circle

“I’m sorry, but in the season of “Girls” a secondhand, sentimental sex comedy, however well-meaning, is not going to cut it.” — So sayeth an uncharacteristically sharp A.O. Scott of the New York Times.

“You’re better off with HBO’s “Girls” if you want a sharper and more fulfilling take on the 20-something female experience in New York.” — The Playlist

Though some weren’t just negative:

The Associated Press’ David Germain ups the hateration: “At some point, a good slap in the face is the best medicine for a loved one caught up in her own little train wreck of a love life. That’s what Lola needs and deserves. And it’s what much of the audience will be hoping for — Lola versus palm to the cheek.” C’mon Dave, lets not be too 50 Shades here, with Lola “needing” a good whuppin’. Also, it’s hard to imagine that even the most callous audience would want to see Greta Gerwig’s Lola go from dancing with her sharp-witted BFF and awkward dates to getting Chris Browned.

Not to be outdone, Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews advocates something a little more along the lines of a Sharia-law realism twist for the third act: “The story is merely a series of Lola’s screw ups, which in a normal world would result with her being stoned to death by the angry mob of the many people she hurts.” Who are the people she hurts? The rollerblader she doesn’t fuck a second time? Ex-bf and her BFFs who she fell out with and then made up with? How is two people “many”? Why not go for the hyperbolic gold and call them “legion”? Personally, I thought the birthday rap at the end was cute and think a violent stoning would be totally wack.

Reading these reviews, it made me wonder: WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE IRATE ABOUT A MOVIE THAT IS SO THOROUGHLY HARMLESS?! Why are these dudes so undid over Lola that they think the appropriate ending is to see her met with grievous bodily harm? Are they not ready for that jelly?

Seems totally fair for the Lola team to ‘play the sexism card’, given some of these reviews, and also, duh, we still live in a patriarchy. (Kinda can’t discount that one.) Lola Versus isn’t change your life fare, or even a movie you need to see more than once, but it’s sure as shit less offensive than its reviewers.

Jessica Hopper is Chicago-based music critic and author of The Girls Guide to Rocking.