Thursday, 13 November 2014

My Most Significant Film: It's just girl stuff

Fig 1. Lola Versus (2012)
I first watched Lola Versus (2012) last summer after I picked up a copy of the DVD at the closing down sale of my local Blockbusters. An indie "rom-com-ish movie about a woman who goes looking for herself after she's dumped the same day she tries on her wedding [Lola Versus] opened to bad numbers and worse reviews" Beckman, L. (2012). But whilst I know it's not the biggest or greatest of classics (opening on the same theatrical release date as The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was always going to be a tough sell), Lola Versus is the film I watched that made me want to write screenplays.

Starring Greta Gerwig "the Mumblequeen herself" (Ultraculture, 2012), Daniel D'Addario (2012) argues "Lola Versus is a quirky...flick with dreams of being a big, broadly appealing romantic comedy - it’s not so different from last summer’s Friends with Benefits, a big, broadly appealing romantic comedy that wanted to be quirky...Put Mila Kunis or Emma Stone in Greta Gerwig’s role, and move the setting to a backdrop more cinematic than somewhere in crypto-Downtown Manhattan or North Brooklyn, and, voila, you have a movie that pulls in upward of $30 million on opening weekend." The problem is I hated Friends with Benefits (2011) and found it to be an emotionally vapid, predictable, smug smirk of a movie (and that's just the poster). I just about made it through Bad Teacher (2011) and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) where Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis were merely supporting actors but to sit through nearly two hours of their Friends with Benefits on-screen 'romance' was personally, almost unbearable - even with the advantage of being drunk when I watched it.

However, I think that compared to what the box office would suggests a lot of viewers enjoy accept when it comes to mainstream romantic comedies, the problem is I just don't believe in their themes or characters. In Kim Hudson's The Virgin Promise (2009) she notes "Jung wrote "Meaning only comes when people feel they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama" (Hollis, 2004, 11). This statement ties into another fundamental principal of screenwriting - audiences need a protagonist they can relate to" - and sadly I can't relate to the likes of Friends with Benefits, Friends with Kids (2011); and the particularly unwatchable Something Borrowed (2011). Lola Versus though...I just fell in love. With Lola, with her stunned heartbreak, with her passivity, with her fear of turning 30, with her messy friendships, with her bad decisions; with the film's dialogue - especially the film's dialogue. And, not just in spite of, but  for me, because of the self-indulgent journey Lola takes as the film circumnavigates over a year of her life; which is perhaps not the easiest of tasks given that the film runs at a very modest 87 minutes.

To me Lola Versus is a modern day fairy tale. Whilst there's no glass slipper, no magic mirror; no Prince Charming - as Bettelheim (1989) comments "fairy tales are centred on self-worth and selfhood...presented as stories of casual, everyday life events, which take place in the domestic realm." At the end of the Lola Versus, an unmarried and triumphantly single Lola takes time to reflect on childhood expectations with her very-unwicked-and-very-un-step-mother summarising "Remember how much I loved Cinderella as a kid? It's what messes little girls up!". Dumped three weeks before her wedding yet ultimately going on a journey of personal growth and discovery, the story told in Lola Versus represents "the process of knowing yourself  as an individual, internally and externally" (Hudson, 2009). And that's the stuff I think fairy tales and films should be made of.
No Lola Versus isn't revolutionary - and granted, lines like '""Find your spirit animal and ride it until it's dick falls off"" aren't for everybody - but they are to me. Because underneath the aching Gerwigness; the saltiness and sluttiness, the themes of Lola Versus and the way the story is told represents something complex and truthful. Dating. Human interaction. Aging. Friendship. Sex. Comparing yourself to others. Maybe themes like that are just my preference when it comes to telling a story. Maybe essentially Lola Versus is just a movie full of girlish prattle; maybe it is just "‘mumblecore “Sex and the City”'" (Uhilch, K. 2012). But, as Waldman (2014) writes:
Dating is probably the most fraught human interaction there is. You're sizing people up to see if they're worth your time and attention, and they're doing the same to you. It's meritocracy applied to personal life, but there's no accountability. We submit ourselves to these intimate inspections and simultaneously inflict them on others and try to keep our psyches intact - to keep from becoming cold and callous - and we hope that at the end we wind up happier than our grandparents, who didn't spend this vast period of their lives, those prime years, so thoroughly alone, coldly and anatomized again and again. But who cares right? It's just girl stuff. 
Beckman, L. (2012) Is Lola Versus a bad movie or are all men sexist? [Online] Available from [Accessed: 11 November 2014]

Bettelheim, B. (1989) The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Vintage Books

D'Addario, D. (2012) Lola Versus Reviewed: Mumblecore Vet Gerwig Attempts to Hold Off Stifling Script .[Online] Available from [Accessed: 11 November 2014]

Hudson, K. (2009) The Virgin's Promise. California: Michael Wiese Productions

Uhlich, K. (2012) Lola Versus. [Online] Available from [Accessed: 13 November 2014]

Ultraculture (2012) This month in Gerwig: Lola Versus. [Online] Available from [Accessed: 11 November 2014]
Waldman, A. (2014) The Love Affairs of Nathanial P. London : Windmill Books

Bad Teacher. (2011) Film. Directed by Jake Kasdan. [DVD] USA: Columbia Pictures

Friends with Benefits. (2011) Film. Directed by Will Gluck. [DVD] USA: Sony

Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (2008) Film. Directed by Nicholas Stoller. [DVD] USA: Universal

Lola Versus. (2012) Film. Directed by Daryl Wein. [DVD] USA: Groundswell Productions and Fox Searchlight Pictures

Something Borrowed. (2011). Film. Directed by Luke Greenfield. [DVD] USA: Warner Bros

The Dark Knight Rises. (2012) Film. Directed by Chris Nolan. [DVD] USA: Warner Bros
Image Source:
Figure 1. Lola Versus. (2011) [Poster] Available from: [Accessed: 12 November 2014]