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.
UPDATE: While monitoring NBC's ratings may not be the most enthralling of games, watching as the peacock network rolls out its slate of new series is always diverting. We've watched the 2012 lineup of Chelsea Handler-inspired sitcoms and fedora-dependent dramas parade out before the viewing public, only for many of the flashier series to scamper off back to the place from whence they came. (Okay, okay. Are You There, Chelsea? is this close to scampering, but give it time, my friends.) But no matter which ones stick and which ones flop, NBC continually rolls things that make you go "Huh?" This year, we're once again doing the pug head tilt as we flip through the promising, perplexing and intriguing pilot-to-series pick-ups, just in time for next week's upfronts.
Hannibal Starring Hugh Dancy
The network has picked up ten episodes of Hannibal, a series about one of cinema's most beloved villains: Hannibal Lecter, immortalized by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon. Our Idiot Brother star Hugh Dancy is on board as Special Agent Will Graham (formerly played by Edward Norton in Red Dragon.)
1313 Mockingbird Lane Starring Eddie Izzard
In the 1960s, television introduced The Munsters: a life action fantasy-comedy about a family of working-class monsters (Frankenstein's monster, his vampire wife, their werewolf son, and Grandpa, a.k.a. Count "Sam" Dracula). NBC has picked up a reboot of the series, stressing the horror aspect. However, with comedian Eddie Izzard cast as Grandpa, there is likely to be a good deal of humor as well. NBC has picked up 13 episodes of 1313 Mockingbird Lane (a very apropos amount.)
Crossbones from the Creator of Luther
With cannibals and monsters on the way, NBC is covering all bases in terms of the dark and criminal: how about pirates? The network has ordered 10 episodes of Crossbones, a pirate-themed drama from Neil Cross, creator of Luther. The series is adapted from The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard, and is set in the 1700s.
Revolution Starring Giancarlo Esposito
When all of the world's electricity suddenly and suspiciously disappears, humanity is forced to pick up and start anew. Of course, easier said than done. Fifteen years after the incident, the world is overtaken by militant societies operating with guerilla warfare. When one girl loses her entire immediate family, she is forced to pick up and find a relative whom she hasn't seen since the planet lost its power. And of course, one question persists: why on Earth did this all happen in the first place?
Do No Harm Starring Steven Pasquale
Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will be reinvented with a new, modern twist in Do No Harm. The new series stars Rescue Me's Steven Pasquale as an ingenious neurosurgeon, plagued by his malevolent, monstrous alter ego. Joining Pasquale are The Cosby Show's Phylicia Rashad and Law & Order's lana De La Garza.
Infamous Starring Meagan Good
NBC is delving into the world of soap operas and detective stories with Infamous (previously titled Notorious). The series stars Meagan Good who goes undercover among the wealthy family for whom her mother worked as housekeeper when Good's character was a child. She is bent on investigating the murder of one of the family members, who was also her childhood best friend. The series also features Victor Garber and Damages' Tate Donovan.
Guys with Kids Starring Anthony Anderson
In light of the recent "Having kids is funny" theme that is sweeping the comedy world, NBC has picked up Guys with Kids, a sitcom about three friends who are new fathers, all the while suspended in their own adolescence. Star Anthony Anderson actually tried this once already as a movie: My Baby's Daddy, back in 2004. But let's hope this time around, the project has a little more to it. The West Wing's Jesse Bradford, The Sopranos' Jamie-Lynn Sigler and The Cosby Show's Tempestt Bledsoe also star.
Chicago Fire from Creator Dick Wolf
Law & Order mastermind Dick Wolf has spent most of his career looking at the crime-laden streets of New York City, with a few trips to Los Angeles here and there. But Wolf's newest series, Chicago Fire, will focus on a team of fire fighters in the Windy City. The program stars Vampire Diaries' Taylor Kinney, Hawaii Five-0's Lauren German, and House's Jesse Spencer as members of a (if this is the same Dick Wolf we're talking about) entertaining but no-nonsense and dedicated fire department.
1600 Penn Starring Josh GadLike NBC's 30 Rock, which takes place (obviously) at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, 1600 Penn is set at the house every American can recognize in a matter of seconds: The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Along with President Obama's former speech writer Jon Lovett and Modern Family director Jason Winer, Book of Mormon star Josh Gad penned this sitcom centered on the First family, a group who turns out to be just as messed up as the rest of us. Gad will star alongside Bill Pullman (who will play the President of the United States once again) and Brittany Snow co-stars as the First daughter.
Animal Practice Starring Weeds' Justin Kirk
You had us Justin Kirk, but just to humor NBC, let's dig into the details. Kirk stars as a vet (as in an animal doctor, not a guy who runs the pancake breakfasts at your church) who tends to side more with the animals he operates on than their owners. Tyler Labine (Reaper) and Bobby Lee (MadTV) costar, but they'll have to wrestle for screen time because Kirk's animal hospital will also include a monkey, presumably in a tiny white lab coat. Go On Starring Matthew Perry The series sounds promising enough — a sportscaster who suffers a great loss finds solace in his support group — just imagine the Former Mr. Chandler Bing as the smug sports guy finally coming to the conclusion that it's okay to get something out of group therapy. However, we've seen this before. In fact, it's almost too familiar. This series is practically an evolution from the last two series Perry tried to get off the ground: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine. He's a flippant sportscaster dealing with loss; it basically offers to combine the gravity of Aaron Sorkin's SNL-inspired dramedy with the silly, quippy nature of Mr. Sunshine. That sounds like a perfectly adept progression... now let's just see if it sticks. The New Normal from Creator Ryan Murphy From the creator of Glee and American Horror Story comes a regular family sitcom about a gay couple (The Hangover's Justin Bartha and Book of Mormon's Andrew Rannells,) their surrogate (Georgia King) and their children. Ellen Barkin co-stars as the surrogate's (hopefully delightfully icy) mother and Murphy favorite NeNe Leakes (The Real Housewives of Atlanta) has secured a recurring role. No matter what happens with Leakes and Queen Barkin, there's no way the perfect pairing of Bartha and Rannells won't be worth tuning in at least once. Save Me Starring Anne Heche Anne Heche may have earned her designer shoes by heading up series like Men in Trees and earning roles on Hung and Ally McBeal, but she still can't manage to escape the stigma of her mental breakdown in 2000. Still, we've got to give the girl kudos, because she's getting back on the horse — by playing a woman doing the exact same thing. Heche stars as a woman in a broken marriage who decides to better herself, and produces miracles along the way. It's always a risk bringing miraculous happenings into play on a sitcom, but the quirky Heche might be just the girl to do it. Revolution from J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke Not satisfied with past attempts to capture the post-apocalyptic mindset on television, Revolution attempts to traverse the territory for NBC. The series will follow a group of survivors (including Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito and Twilight's Billy Burke) as they struggle in the new American landscape bereft of technology and civil order. Sure, it sounds a little like Cormac McCarthy's bestseller The Road, but with a sizeable ensemble cast like Revolution's, there will be plenty of series-worthy drama to weave into the otherwise bleak landscape.
Matthew Perry's NBC Series a Go Bill Pullman Gets Presidential (Again) With NBC Giancarlo Esposito Joins J.J. Abrams' Revolution
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