DVD Alert: “LOL” Not Nearly As Bad As Some Would Have You Believe.

I was a little leery firing up the DVD player for this one.  I had heard horrible things about it.  One, that it was a watered-down remake of a French film that wasn’t that great to begin with.  Two, Miley Cyrus can’t act.  Three, it has almost universally terrible reviews.  While it’s true that Miley’s fifteen minutes as dictated by the success of her Disney Channel franchise, “Hannah Montana,” are just about up, the evidence as presented in this film just proves to me that if she’s careful about the roles she chooses in transitioning into an adult career, she could probably stay relevant as long as she wants.

That said, I won’t lie and say I enjoyed every minute of LOL, but it’s honestly not THAT bad.  My main issue with the film was that it seemed largely plotless, and the script ping-pongs back and forth between events in teenage Lola’s (Cyrus) life and in that of her mother Anne (Demi Moore).  While this device is meant to convey the message that mothers and daughters are, beneath the surface, not that different, it’s a less than touching way of handling it.  Cyrus and Moore both do well with the material they have to work with, but this is, as I’ve pointed out, a near-plotless film and there isn’t really a sense of growth or learning in either character– just minor realizations and acceptance.  This, however, is the fault of the script and not the actors involved.

My other problem with the movie was that, for one that bills itself as a comedy of sorts, there was actually very little humor.  There are some hilarious moments– my favorite involved a webcam, a raw chicken, and Lola’s best friend Emily (Ashley Hinshaw)– but the overall tone of the film is harsh, despite its warm ‘n’ fuzzy ending.  There is a lot of railing about the unfairness of the world, though never explicitly stated as such;  the parents are almost all portrayed as draconian, and those that aren’t are hypocritical (for instance, Anne preaches to Lola about the dangers of smoking pot and does it herself).  There are hateful, misogynistic boys (Lola’s ex, Chad);  there are equally hateful, snotty girls who try to keep our heroine down (Ashley Greene, on loan from the Twilight franchise).  Even Lola’s bestie withholds an important truth from her for fear of that truth making her look bad, though it would have eliminated about half of the already thin storyline.  The viewer carries away a slightly distasteful sense of the teenage condition being a desperate, navel-gazing time of “every man/woman for him/herself.”  Of course, that isn’t entirely untrue, but while a long-gone generation of teen films (those of the late John Hughes come to mind) at least managed to convey this with a lot more humor and heart, this one is a bit lacking on the comedy front– once again, the weak-script demon strikes.

However, many of the familiar teen-movie tropes are intact and feel as comfortable as ever.  There’s the Hot Guy Teacher.  There’s the Nerd That Scores a Cute Chick By Accident.  There’s the Requisite Wild Party and Anything-Goes Class Trip (to Paris, in this case), the Friendzoned Guy Who Was Mr. Right All Along, even the All-Important Battle of the Bands.  None of these elements feel shoehorned in, though occasionally they involve sideline characters, testimony to a strong director.  This was why I was surprised to note that the aforementioned weak screenplay was written by the director, Lisa Azuelos.   All I can say is that Azuelos should probably stick to filming other peoples’ screenplays– directing is obviously her forte.

All negativity aside, I didn’t hate the movie.  The actors performed admirably, particularly Cyrus in what could have been a shrill, mopey sort of role, and Hinshaw, who provided the bulk of the comic relief as parentally repressed, sexually curious honor student Emily (the character with whom I most identified).  Though everything ends well for everyone, with even the Mean Girl and the Misogynist in a happy place, the film doesn’t sugarcoat reality on the way there– there is a lot of misunderstanding and downright ugliness over the course of its runtime.  The minor problems that stand in for a plot are all resolved by the end because they are just that– minor problems.  And ultimately, this is where the film succeeds:  it recognizes that most of the drama that takes place within the walls of a high school will eventually right itself, because in the grand scheme of things, none of it is really as important as it seems at the time.  The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade:  C+

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