Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spout #5: LOL

It's taken me awhile to write the review for LOL, mainly because I keep trying to think of good things to say about this movie. I'm feeling a bit like the lone dissenter here, the only person out there who didn't love this film. I've gone and read some reviews, and I've read up a bit on this 'mumblecore' movement I keep hearing about, hoping to find some explanation, something to tell me what I was missing. But no, nothing worked. Put me in the 'don't get it' category. That's not to say I don't understand the film itself, I do, it's nothing if not painfully obvious about it's intentions. I just don't understand the growing cult surrounding this and other movies that fall under the mumblecore umbrella. But let's focus on LOL for now.

The film follows three friends and their inability to engage people(or, more specifically, women) without the aid of their various technological gadgets. Alex is a musician who seems unable or unwilling to realize that the random woman he's been emailing at a porn site probably isn't really attracted to him. So deluded and self involved is he that when an actual flesh and blood girl flirts with him, all he can think to do is lie to her, convince her that he's going on tour and needs a ride from Chicago to St. Louis. Once there, she puts him up at her parents house, and is obviously willing to share her bed, yet he spends the entire night on her mothers computer, checking his email obsessively for a reply from the aforementioned porn star, holding out hope that she likes him somehow more than every other random, anonymous man watching her take her clothes off and sending her love letters. It seems like common sense to me that someone charging you for their time probably isn't that into you, but apparently Alex missed that lesson.

It's hard to decide whether or not this is the biggest example of douchebaggery in the film, as his friends are all just as clueless when it comes to the opposite sex. Tim(played by the film's director, Joe Swanberg) spends every moment with his girlfriend either on his cell phone or laptop, at one point even chatting online with his friend, who is sitting on the couch with him, while his girlfriend fumes between them. He seems completely aware of how angry this makes her, and sees that this is driving her away from him and towards other men, but really doesn't seem to care much, asking if she can wait 20 minutes before they finish having sex so he can work on his computer. Chris, visiting from out of town and away from his girlfriend, passive aggressively goads his girlfriend into sending him nude photos, and then berates her for not making them sexy enough(completely not true, I don't know what he was looking at). Later he tries to coerce her into having phone sex with him, and when she expresses discomfort, insults her and dramatically declares their sex life dead, ignoring her personal problems to flirt with random women while she apparently has a breakdown back at home.

Now, it's not the filmmakers job to create likable characters; plenty of great films have been made about unlikable assholes. Neither is it the filmmakers job to make the film enlightening OR entertaining. But I will argue that it is the filmmakers job to at least provide an audience with one of those three things. So obviously the characters are jerks, but is the film entertaining?

Decidedly not. The only reason I didn't stop this movie halfway through was my desire to see the entire thing before reviewing it, and a growing lethargy that seeped out of my TV screen. As the film dragged on my limbs became heavier and my brain moved slower so that I just couldn't bring myself to get up and turn off the TV. It was easier to keep watching than to stop and get off the couch. How about enlightening, was it at least that? Well, maybe if you were a self involved teenager, I could see how this would seem earth shatteringly relevant.

It's the god-given right of every person between their teenage years and mid-twenties to be a conceited, narcissistic jerk. It's expected, and socially acceptable, even. But to take this navel gazing and build a film 'movement' around it is a bit much. What am I supposed to learn from LOL? That twenty-something hipsters are socially inept egotistical morons? Is that really a revelation? EVERYONE is like that at a certain age. In actuality, and to be fair to the film, the real message here is something about how computers are getting in the way of real human contact. That's fair. However, this is also nothing new, and a bit false. Socially awkward, self involved people have existed for... well... ever, long before the Internet came around. The only difference is that now instead of comic books, or D&D, these same people spend their time online, where sites like Myspace and Facebook can let them feel social without the pesky 'interacting with people' thing.

I'm probably being a bit too hard on this film, and I feel bad trashing something that was obviously cobbled together by friends doing things they enjoy. The film does try to say something, it does attempt to be relevant and meaningful, and that's a lot more than many more polished, professional films accomplish, but it still struck a false note with me. But then, as you've probably gathered, I am not the target audience for this film. This is probably right up the alley for anyone who loved Four Eyed Monsters(look closely and you'll see Arin and Susan from that film in some of Alex's musical montages), but where that film had an underlying sweetness and nifty visual style to dilute the navel-gazing, LOL is nothing but narcissistic reflections put on screen, trying to pass itself off as a raw and honest exploration of what it's like to live in the digital age.

1 comment:

EggOfTheDead said...

This reminds me of how annoying I found Reality Bites, a film I should have liked except it was apparently released just after I slid out of the navel-gazing phase you reference so eloquently in this review.