At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Remember when David Caruso left "NYPD Blue" in a massive firestorm of controversy to become a huge movie star? David Caruso "?
No, not the singer ... he’s an actor. He was on "NYPD Blue" before Jimmy Smits. No, seriously, there was a guy named David Caruso, and he was the star of the show. Remember?
Well, anyway, David Caruso returns to TV today in the made for cable nail-biter "Deadlocked" (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, TNT). Caruso plays the prosecutor in this courtroom thriller with a twist. Charles S. Dutton ("Roc," "Alien 3") -- one of the most convincing angry men in show business -- is the "twist." He plays an angry man, convinced his very guilty-looking son (whom Caruso is prosecuting) is not guilty, and he decides to hold the jury hostage until somebody (Caruso) proves he is right. It’s a cool plot, and both Caruso and Dutton deliver the tension enough to make the drama really work.
In other tube highlights:
"The Crocodile Hunter" has been on for years now, and if you've never seen it, you’ve probably heard the rumors. It’s a nature documentary show hosted by a very friendly and quite possibly insane Australian man named Steve Irwin. Irwin simply has absolutely no fear of any of the things we are all supposed to be at least a little bit afraid off -- like being eaten alive by wild animals, being bitten by poisonous snakes, etc. What’s worse is that his wife, Terri, comes along with him on most expeditions, and, well, let’s just say the episode where he gets repeatedly bitten by a tree snake that jumps into their boat, causing Terri to fall overboard with a giant, hungry crocodile in the water, was some pretty jaw-dropping television. Anyway, this is your chance to see for yourself, because it’s "Croc Week" on Animal Planet. A full week of the best episodes of "The Crocodile Hunter," starts today at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT. And by the way, you won’t be disappointed. The rumors are true.
Maybe it’s because they're usually so proper and easily embarrassed, but when British people do irreverent and outrageous comedy, they really go nuts. This week Comedy Central premieres a new comedy series from the nation that brought us "Monty Python" and "Absolutely Fabulous." And if you are a fan of those shows, "The League of Gentlemen" (10:30 p.m. EDT/PDT, Monday), while certainly new and different, might just be your (spiked) cup of tea. A headline in the local paper of the bizarro-fictional town of Royston Vasey reads, "New Road Planned - Strangers Expected." And the strangers do show up pretty quickly - some 60 odd characters (and we do mean "odd") including men, women and transvestites, all played by the show’s versatile and talented three-man troupe (Steve Pemberton, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith). It’s weird, it’s British, and it’s highly recommended.
A&E premieres a few new episodes of its popular, often interesting, sometimes not "Biography" series. Today at 8 p.m. EDT/PDT should be a good one as it profiles Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. Much of the most important American music of the second half of this century came from Phillips' Memphis-based label. And this hour gives Phillips' own accounts of those revolutionary early recording sessions with Elvis Prestley, Roy Orbison, B.B. King and Johnny Cash. Also premiering this week on "Biography": Ex-"Happy Days" heartthrob Henry Winkler (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Monday) and current Royal heartthrob Prince William (8 p.m. EDT/PDT, Wednesday).
"Making the Band" (9:30 p.m. EDT/PDT, Friday, ABC) has its own take on the "Survivor" concept (round up a bunch of real people, dangle a prize for those who can last the season and callously kick one or more of them to the curb each week). Rather than surviving on a desert island, however, the cast of "Making the Band" must survive the even more cutthroat world of show business. The tension is high and the tears flow this week as the seven finalists for the roster of the boyband to be known as O-Town must be cut down to the final five. A little quick math says that two of them, the last two, must go. Man, this reality-based stuff can be tough sometimes. Even if you have no plans to buy an O-Town record when it comes out, this show can suck you in if you’re not careful.