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.
One can only assume while watching last night's new 30 Rock that the episode's writers Vali Chandrasekaran and Robert Carlock had an especially bad experience while sitting on an Ashley Furniture couch, chewing Bazooka Joe bubblegum and watching a Lindsay Lohan movie. (I know, it sounds like a good time to me, too.) Because, with the exception of weekly hilarious target Mickey Rourke (who sent a bouquet filled with spiders this time around), no one got it worse on 30 Rock last night than couches, gum, and LiLo.
Then again, Jack and Jenna haven't exactly had the best go of things lately. Jack, desperate to stay in Hank Hooper's good graces, opened up Kabletown's line of Kouchtown couches that were manufactured in an American factory and built by especially inept American engineers (lead by guest star and SNL player Bobby Moynihan.) While the prototype for their couches were a hit (Liz was especially fond of the "absorbent material for nap drool") the final product turned out to feel more like a torture device used for interrogations. Which is exactly what they wound up being used for when the government purchased them back.
The couches may not have been Jack's best business plan, but it wasn't a total disaster. In fact, those spine-crushing pieces of "furniture" could be the very thing that gets Avery back on U.S. soil as one of the people subjected to one had intel on her. I must say, all of Alec Baldwin's off-screen drama aside, this was one of his funniest and most sincere turns all season. (His meltdown in front of the couch industry elite could rival Jenna's.) If Baldwin is going out like he keeps saying he is, good God, at least he's going out on top.
Meanwhile Jenna had her own Bad Idea of the Week when she opted to have a full-on celebrity meltdown in the hopes that it would win back Paul. How weird and reckless was it? In the end, it weirded Tracy out. That bad. She Kanye'd a spelling bee, jumped out of a window during a visit to The Today Show, made out with Paz de le Huerta at a children's museum, dined at Balthazar without a reservation and admitted she made a sex tape with the Six Flags guy. Still, against all odds, she wound up back in the arms of Paul L'astname. So did a poor handcuffed Tracy, too, for that matter.
The only person who wasn't having a bad time was none other than Liz Lemon. My how things have changed this season, eh? Despite the fact that Murphy Brown had lied to her and career women everywhere about having it all, Liz has still gotten her "real life" on track. After resigning to the fact that she wouldn't have kids, Jack secretly set up a meeting with a Terrible Kevin (not a good Kevin like a Sorbo or a Costner or a Garnett) so that Liz could meet his daughter Kat, who was a mini-Liz, complete with sarcastic sense of humor, glasses, an unwanted schoolyard nickname, and feel a connection to a youth. (Super Virgin meet Pukes in Thermos!)
Jack's plan to ensure there are more Liz Lemons in the world paid off. Liz realized she actually did want kids still and Criss agreed she'd make an awesome mom, though whether he'll be the one to have and raise a kid with her is up in the air. (Side note: Hollywood.com's own Kate Ward thinks James Marsden is a better catch than Ryan Gosling. Talk amongst yourselves.) While it's great that 30 Rock is finally giving Liz the life she wants and deserves, does her cheer that "Real life is starting" mean Liz Lemon has been lying to us, too? She has been a funny, aspirational, cheese-eating beacon for single career women everywhere for years. But if everything that lead to Criss and possibly a baby wasn't "real life" to Liz Lemon, what does it mean for the rest of us? Ack!
While you mull that over, here are the best lines and moments from last night's 30 Rock "Murphy Brown Lied To Us":
- Liz's clean up song from childhood: "Clean up, clean up, do your own housework, you little crackers!"
- Liz and Criss' gay porn reenactment.
- Those Clint Eastwood Super Bowl commercial spoofs for Kouchtown. ("Nunchucking can wear a guy out.")
- The visual of Raymour & Flannigan as conjoined twins. (If these couch companies weren't sponsors for 30 Rock before, they definitely aren't now.)
- Liz's baby Princess Leia costume. Ideal for getting out of baby jury duty!
- Jack's explanation of the early days of Bazooka Joe, which started as a pink rock quarry and at one point a "softer version of their gum was used to make armor-piercing bullets".
- Nixon 2016!
- Mythbusters is Liz's ultimate aphrodisiac.
- Liz's reason for going on a date with a stranger at a coffee shop: The possibility of a free ham sandwich and a jazz CD.
- Matt Lauer upping the journalist guest spot ante for Brian Williams.
- Jack's deep, dark secrets: He keeps buying candles as gifts and keeping them for himself, his natural hair color is bright red, he hates golf, and he once smoked a clove cigarette in college.
- Twitter is actually a media-savvy crackhead friend of Tracy's.
- Jenna's ex David Blaine doesn't actually levitate, he skateboards.
- Criss' catchphrase "It's game go!"
- Liz and Criss' idea of a good time is puzzles and stew.
-"This is outrageous, I didn't get to work an hour late just to be the first one here!" - Tracy
- "Years later the government took it over and turned it into a training facility for single mothers to teach illegal immigrants to fill out unemployment forms" - Jack at the Kouchtown factory where the engineers have only been equipped to make "roller coasters and Survivor challenges"
- "So you don't start with the breakdown? You have to build to it! Like a C + C Music Factory song! My heyday was also the '90s"- Jenna, on her meltdown
- "I'll finally get the acceptance every 39-year-old man craves from his girlfriend's boss"- Criss, on Jack
- "People who talk the most in meetings often know the least" - Mini-Liz Kat's philosophy after experiencing the insulting Take Your Daughter to Work Day
- "Sink them and create a reef to protect gay turtles? I don't know and I don't care"- Jack, on the fate of Kabletown couches after the CIA took them
What did you think of last night's 30 Rock? Are you happy to see Liz finally getting her life in order or did it send the message that a woman's life doesn't actually start until she finds the right guy and has a kid? Blergh. Are you excited for next week's live episode? Sound off in the comments section.
[Photo credit: NBC]
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