By Eleanor Ringel Cater
With the exception of the dismal “Joe Versus. the Volcano” or the fanboy romp, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” when I see the word “versus” (or “vs.”) in a movie title, I tend to think, um, classically.
As in, “Godzilla vs. Mothra
But here’s “Lola Versus,” a movie as open-ended — or incomplete, depending on your tolerance for Manhattan-set indie rom-coms — as its title.
This is one of those pictures that you don’t want to turn audiences away from; it’s smart, reasonably involving, well-acted, etc. But it lacks…I don’t know…chemistry?
Not so much between (among?) the characters as between (among?) it and us in the audience.
Does that make sense?
So, why am I more for it than agin’ it?
Maybe it’s because “Lola Versus” faces such an uphill climb. No big-name stars. No advertising budget. No buzz.
Not much plot either, but enough. Lola (Greta Gerwig) has just been dumped by her fiancé mere moments (well, weeks) before the deal is sealed, so to speak.
Making it all worse: She’s about to turn 30. A 30-year-old single female in NYC? Where’s Sara Jessica Parker when you need her?
So, there’s your plot: What should Lola do? Run, Lola, run! But…where?
The movie juggles a few possibilities, most notably, a goofy good friend (the goofy and good Hamish Linklater). And some guy who pretty much picks her up…not easily or immediately…at Zabars (or a clone thereof). And the ex-fiancé remains a possibility.
But we know this kind of movie. Lola would have a better chance with Godzilla or Mothra.
Gerwig is an interesting actor, with offbeat traditional good looks and a manner that’s both wary and winning. Lola may be dumb about romance but she’s not dumb and Gerwig makes sure we see her different sides.
Still, the movie gives us few attractive possibilities, aside from the maybe-available Linklater (his problem: he was friends with her and her ex when they were a couple).
Worse, it sticks us with Lola’s BFF (Zoe Lister Jones). She’s the sort of person you’d like to throw under a bus. Probably the No. 5. And then pass it off as performance art.
Lister Jones character is like (Old School reference here) Mary Tyler Moore’s pal Rhoda gone rancid. But there’s no getting rid of her because she also co-wrote the script and, I think, is involved with the director, Daryl Wein.
“Lola Versus” is a fine choice if you just can’t do another Big Summer Movie and you’ve already seen “Bernie” at least twice. It’s the sort of thing reviewers are always begging Hollywood — or somebody — to do. Then when they try, we trample all over it.
My advice: give it a look. It’s not even 90 minutes long and, if nothing else, it gives you a welcome injection of Manhattan, without the cost of the plane and the hotel or even the No. 5 bus.