There's been a bit of a brouhaha erupting on the Internet of late, around Lola Versus, the Fox Searchlight romantic comedy that opened in limited engagement last weekend. Co-written by real-life couple Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein (who also directed), the movie follows a Ph.D student (played by Greta Gerwig) as she turns 29, gets engaged, gets dumped, and then tailspins, before (spoiler alert) getting her shit together (or least starting down that path), and having a coming-of-age epiphany moment.
So far, so good. But then, the movie got a few bad reviews, particularly this one, on HuffPo (which gave us a moment's pause, considering the site's defense of rom coms and support of Lister-Jones on other verticals). And then A.O. Scott felt turned off by the cliches (personally, we liked the 90210 references, but fine), and few other critics followed suit. And then, the team behind Lister-Jones' last film, Breaking Upwards, made an appeal to a handful of friends and fans to go see the movie and spread the word, to counter the bad press. And someone tweeted the email. And quite a few words were written about it. Were the filmmakers being whiny and stereotypically female, complaining about the male critics? Do critics have any impact on the box office, anyway? Is it fair to compare all rom coms to Bridesmaids (and should we really classify Bridesmaids as a rom com, anyway)?
All fair questions, we think (for the record, we say no to all of them). But first, an aside. Is the movie groundbreaking? No. Did we enjoy it? Yes. Particularly because we've lived through more than our fair share of breakups. And they suck. They're hard, you feel unsure and emotional and introspective, and aren't necessarily the best version of yourself in that transitional phase when you're trying to recover.
With that said, we kinda see the argument about the Male Gaze here. Was this a movie made with men in mind? We would guess the answer is no. But does that make it shallow and an embarrassment to women? Also no. Fine closes his HuffPo review with these lines: "It's all like an extended episode of Girls, minus that series' self-lacerating sense of humor. Or any sense of humor. Watching Lola Versus, you mostly want to say to this young woman, 'It's amazing what they can do these days with antidepressants.'"
And that's what pisses us off. We found Gerwig's Lola to be real and flawed, and ultimately, willing to learn. And the experience of breaking up, well, like we said, it sucks. So, we're loath to toss a line about antidepressants her way, and the way of every woman going through an emotional, vulnerable moment, casting aside the real value of the bad times that so often get us to the better times.
And for the record, we loved Bridesmaids, but no, we don't think every romantic comedy should be compared to it. We're pretty sure it's just a comedy, not really a romance, anyway. And if you ask us, there's room in the market to tell a variety of stories from a variety of vantage points (although the box office numbers may not always back us up there), and we're glad Lister-Jones is telling hers.
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight