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.
Forget Black Swan – Natalie Portman’s real crowning performance is to be found in the romantic comedy No Strings Attached in which director Ivan Reitman asks her to convey sincere unqualified affection for Ashton Kutcher. Portman much to her credit gamely complies and though she may not have the emaciated figure bloody nails and bandaged ankles to tell of her labors the psychic scars must no doubt be just as severe.
Exhibiting strong chick-flick leanings and a rambunctious soft-R comic tone (i.e. lots of F-bombs some menstrual humor and a few shots of Kutcher’s naked ass) No Strings Attached is built around a basic relationship role-reversal: The dude Adam (Kutcher) longs for a deeper lasting commitment; the chick Emma (Portman) insists on keeping matters purely physical. Emma’s motive is a practical one: As a doctor-to-be her busy residency schedule with its 80-hour work weeks and intensive exam preparations precludes a serious relationship. But alas a woman has certain needs (foreplay apparently not being among them) and who better to fulfill them than Kutcher’s non-threatening boy-toy?
Thus a “friends with benefits” arrangement is cemented whereupon the ripcord is to be pulled on the occasion that either of them develops stronger feelings. This does not last long for soon Adam is cloyingly lobbying for escalation. Emma demurs – not out of disinterest we are told but because she’s intimacy-averse and afraid of a broken heart. Why else would she resist a more permanent attachment to someone like Adam?
Perhaps it’s because Adam as played by Kutcher is about as interesting as cabbage. And yet No Strings Attached would have us believe he’s some kind of floppy-haired Albert Schweitzer. This despite the fact that his greatest aspiration in life is to join the writing staff of a High School Musical-esque television series the shallow inanity of which is one of the film’s recurring jokes. In vain support of his cause the filmmakers decorate Adam’s apartment with various props – vintage posters books about 1920s movies a guitar that is occasionally picked up but never actually played – that hint at a depth that Kutcher himself never manifests.
Still Portman sells us on Adam and Emma’s inevitable union with every ounce of her not inconsiderable talent. (And her comic chops are legit – as those who’ve glimpsed her appearances on SNL and Funny or Die can attest.) But she asks too much. And Elizabeth Meriweather’s script while witty and stocked with some keen observations on the evolving nature of relationships in the modern age becomes weighed down by sentiment unbecoming an R-rated comedy not directed by Judd Apatow. In the end Kutcher seals the increasingly contrived deal with the climactic line “I’m warning you: Come one step closer and I’m never letting you go ” (I’m paraphrasing but not loosely) by which time the film's already lost its grip.
Actor Eddie Murphy ("The Nutty Professor") is a new dad -- again.
The 38-year-old comic and wife Nicole Murphy welcomed their fourth child, a baby girl, on Christmas Eve at a Los Angeles hospital. The newly dubbed Zola Ivy weighed in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Mother and Murphy spawn are said to be doing fine.
"We are ecstatic and very happy about the fourth addition to our family, baby Zola Ivy,'' the couple said in the statement.
Murphy's other children are Bria, 10, Myles, 7, and Shayne, 5.
20TH CENTURY FOX: Audrey Hepburn may be a fashion icon, a beloved humanitarian and the enduring star of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but she's no Elizabeth Hurley. Go figure.
The 34-year-old spokesmodel/actress was named "Babe of the Century" over the late Hepburn, per an Internet poll conducted by IGN.com.
"Both women are alluring in their own way," the panting announcement on IGN read. "Both are European (Hurley is British, and Hepburn hailed from Belgium), and both are drop-dead gorgeous. Even King Solomon could not have easily made this decision."
But IGN's cyberreaders did their best, picking Hurley as their lead babe following an intensive, 63-round elimination battle. Hurley's screen credits include "EDtv" and the two "Austin Powers" movies.
SECOND CHANCES: Actress Halle Berry ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") is engaged to R&B singer Eric Benet ("Day in the Life"), her publicist has confirmed.
Berry, 31, previously was married to baseball slugger David Justice. Their three-year union dissolved in 1996 amid rumors of abuse. The divorce was finalized in 1997.
Berry and Benet met two years ago backstage at a Los Angeles venue where he performed. No word on a wedding date. Berry/a> will next be seen on screen as Storm, one of the mutant superheroes of "X-Men."
UNCOUPLED? The British press is frothing at the collective (and figurative) mouth with word that A-list lovebirds Michael Douglas ("A Perfect Murder") and Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Entrapment") are on the outs.
According to Britain's Daily Star, Zeta-Jones spent Christmas at her London home -- alone. The tabloid wrangled a quote from Zeta-Jones' grandmother, who reports, "They [the actress and her mother] are doing a lot of talking. I don't know what has gone wrong."
In the unusual role as the voice of reason, the New York Post says that there's nothing to read into the couple's (separate) Christmas accommodations.
"She was getting a little bit teary as Christmas approached, and Michael encouraged her to just hop on a plane and go home for the holidays," a source tells the Post's Neal Travis.
Today a publicist for Douglas officially denied the two had split up.
Zeta-Jones, 31, and Douglas, really old (55), have been a hot-and-heavy item for much of this year. Speculation that the two were to be engaged ran high as they celebrated their joint birthdays (Sept. 25). But the occasion came and went without a wedding formally in the offing.
ZAPPED: An apparent rift between DreamWorks and the nation's largest theater chain is keeping the new Tim Allen comedy, "Galaxy Quest," off at least 4,400 potential screens.
The Tennessee-based Regal Cinemas confirms to today's Hollywood Reporter that it is not playing the film, a spoof on the "Star Trek" world, at its 431 venues in 32 states. While a Regal spokesman declined to go into specifics over the lockout, the trade paper says it appears that the company didn't like the financial terms DreamWorks was demanding. Regal was "concerned about the box-office prospects" of the film, the Reporter says.
The reputed concern may be well placed. "Galaxy Quest," co-starring Sigourney Weaver, opened on Christmas Day to good reviews but underwhelming business. It bowed in eighth place with an estimated $8.1 million in ticket sales.
SLAM-DUNK: A slate of 10 features has been set for the SlamDunk 2000 Film Festival, yet another Sundance alternative to be held in the shadow of Robert Redford's starry movie extravaganza, Jan. 25-30 in Park City, Utah.
SlamDunk, not to be confused with Slamdance or the now-defunct Slumdance, is in its third year of coattail riding. For more information on the festival, check out the official Web site at: www.slamdunk.cc/flashindex.htm.