24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Greta Gerwig

'Lola Versus' team turns their romantic baggage into films

June 7, 2012 | 10:00 am

Lola versus

Couples that collaborate are nothing new in the movie business. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a relationship as tangled as that of Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones, the twentysomethings behind the new offbeat romantic comedy “Lola Versus.”

For the film, which opens in Los Angeles on Friday, the duo wrote (both of them), directed (him), acted (her), executive-produced (both) — and, oh, yes, went through a yearlong, real-life breakup whose spirit they funneled into the movie.

Wein: “Our personal and professional lives have completely blended. I honestly don’t know if I’m at home right now or on set.” (He was on set, in New York.)

Lister-Jones: “Not everything from the script is from that year. Some is from single men and women I know.” Pause. “A lot is from that year.”

Unlike their 2010 feature debut “Breaking Upwards,” a low-budget DIY effort (think $15,000 and plenty of helpful friends) about a couple who decide to try an open relationship, “Lola” centers on a woman coping with the fallout of a breakup. It comes with a positively Spielbergian budget (for them) of about $5 million and veteran hands in producer Michael London (“Sideways”) and specialty-film giant Fox Searchlight, which financed and oversaw production and is distributing the movie.

The film stars Greta Gerwig (of “Greenberg” and seemingly every third indie romance) as the titular Lola, a woman dumped by her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman of TV’s “The Killing”) just before their nuptials — a destination wedding in Mexico. Rather than running permanently into the arms of her pining male best friend (Hamish Linklater of “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) or back into the conciliatory embrace of her ex, Lola tries to work out a single life with the help of her family and her bawdy gal pal Alice (Lister-Jones, also the wisecracking sidekick Lily from NBC’s “Whitney” and as outspoken in real life as one of her characters).

Though there is romance and comedy, “Lola” is as much about a quest for identity as it is a story of happily ever after.

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Tribeca 2012: 'Lola Versus' aims to be a different sort of romcom

April 24, 2012 | 10:30 pm

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The real-life couple Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones became indie darlings two years ago when their breakup dramedy "Breaking Upwards" -- which they wrote, directed and starred in and made for about $15,000 -- became something of a media sensation and received an art-house release from IFC.

On Tuesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, the two unveiled their sophomore effort, "Lola Versus," a far bigger project (relatively speaking) that stars Greta Gerwig and was financed by Fox Searchlight.

A romantic comedy that tries to avoid some of the genre's more well-worn cliches, "Lola" centers on the title character (Gerwig), a 29-year-old New Yorker who is stunned when her fiance ("The Killing's" Joel Kinnaman) breaks up with her not long before their wedding.

After she goes into the requisite food-fueled despair (it doesn't avoid all cliches), Lola finds herself in a complicated set of dynamics with her ex, her good male friend (Hamish Linklater of "The New Adventures of Old Christine") and her potty-mouthed gal pal (Lister-Jones of "Whitney").

The goal, the filmmakers say, was to tell a breakup story that was neither maudlin nor falsely redemptive, and to do it in a younger age range than many studio romantic comedies.

"We hadn't seen something post-breakup about someone [who was] 30 that was funny and real," Wein, 28, said in a question-and-answer session after the screening."

The movie, which hits theaters June 8, will seek to capture the mojo of "(500) Days of Summer," another Searchlight youthful romance, though whether "Lola" is emotional or clever enough to pull off that film's crossover success remains an open question.

At the afterparty, Wein described his attempt to walk the line between punchline-driven romcom and stuttery mumblecore realism (indeed, the movie doesn't go for broad laughs as much as it does small moments). He and Lister-Jones, 29, made their film as a true family affair -- they shaped the story in part using their own experiences, then collaborated on the writing before he went on to direct while she acted.

On the lower Manhattan set of the movie last year, Gerwig told 24 Frames that she thought those multiple hats served the film.

"I like a team that does everything, because it means having one mind behind something instead of feeling like you're getting thrown things by a lot of different people and then not even knowing why half the stuff is there anymore," she said. "There's a lot more rhythm to working this way, and I think you'll see it in the finished product."

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-- Steven Zeitchik in New York

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus." Credit: Fox Searchlight


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