Poor Lola. Her fiancé flees, her girl best friend outshines her enough to bag her boy best friend, and the uneven movie that traces her woeful Saturn-return story is being dumped (a week later than originally planned) onto one local screen against an array of better-reviewed indie quirk-coms.
Poor Greta Gerwig. As the title lonely heart in the uneven Lola Versus, she's a pre-VHS Woody Allen shiksa screwballed crooked into a post-Netflix Lena Dunham zeitgeist — impossible to refuse in a movie that's often hard to take. The actress is magnetic and approachable, able to slide along the Diane Keaton morose-to-madcap spectrum in uncomfortable hipster heels. But Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones' flighty screenplay mistreats its heroine, never settling on three tones where nine will do. Borderline-surreal moments — a subplot that forces Lola to spend the night with a drippy sensitive-guy caricature builds to a surprisingly amusing almost-sight gag — limp along uncomfortably next to out-of-character zingers that wouldn't feel out of place in a Friends rerun. What plot there is too often advances when a character uses an iPhone, as though the whole thing were generated with an app.
Playing Ethel to Gerwig's Lucy is co-writer Lister-Jones, who likewise never sticks to just one way to play what amounts to a long audition reel. As the jilting fiancé, Joel Kinnaman injects a little mush-mouthed Eric Roberts menace into a stock shitty-boyfriend character. And as the parents who must be providing untold funds offscreen to their grad-student-in-New York daughter (yes, this is another movie in which no 29-year-old need worry about cash), Debra Winger plays homey just fine, while Bill Pullman, sadly, suggests a Tempur-Pedic pillow wilting at a garage sale.
It's unfair but accurate to summarize Lola Versus as something conceived in the gap between Dunham's feature Tiny Furniture and her HBO series, Girls. Lola's lessons aren't much removed from the teachings of Dunham (not least: Don't share a bed with someone who won't fuck you, and don't fuck someone who won't share a bed with you), but here they feel contrived and stale. At its most appealing, Lola Versus plays like a dimly amusing trailer for the better, more astute movie it wants to be. At its most glib and frustratingly bland, it's, like, the third-best iPhone commercial ever.