It really takes a heck of a lot for a romantic comedy to actually win me over and it’s not because of the whole “chick flick” stereotype stigma of me not being in the target demographic or the simple reality of my gender. No, my obtuseness of this genre stems from the very really problem that plagues most of these productions. There is absolutely no originality, or any that does exist is immediately smothered by a clichéd sense of the filmmakers bringing it all home with the tried, tested and true ways of success that made the bigger hits in this field of “let’s satisfy the ladies with this one”. Where we are at now in cinema, these tricks shouldn’t and don’t always work and we should constantly be striving for something better. I definitely am seeing that as I get older, these films keep getting dumber.
Julie Delpy is an actress who is no stranger to romance in either writing it, directing it or starring in it. In 1995, with director Richard Linklater and co-star Ethan Hawke, she starred in Before Sunrise, the first film in what would become a trilogy and the two later movies she would also help write. The films were a captivating and all encompassing story of the relationship of two people, Jesse and Celeste, and really captured a reality-based series of interactions between characters you could feel utterly and completely. Delpy would bring this into her own directed projects, like 2 Days In Paris, 2 Days In New York and now, her new film, Lolo.
Lolo stars Delpy as Violette, a workaholic in her mid-forties, deeply immersed in the fashion industry in Paris. While on a supposed to be relaxing spa vacation in the seaside tourist vacation town, Biarritz, she starts a relationship with Jean-Rene (Dany Boon), a computer whiz launching his own state of the art finance software and Violette’s complete opposite in every way. At first, starting off as a quick fling, things become more serious when Jean-Rene tells her that he has accepted a job in Paris. Violette is more than happy to continue the relationship in her home city and the two continue their dalliance long distance until he arrives.
Violette picks up Jean-Rene when he arrives in Paris to live and the two head back to her place for some intimate time which comes screeching to a halt when her nineteen year old son Eloi (called Lolo by his mother) moves back into her place after splitting with his girlfriend. Lolo is a spoiled and self-centered artist suffering from a bit of an Oedipus complex and immediately resents Jean-Rene, calling himò J.R. in a very condescending fashion. He makes it his sworn mission to break the two up, showing his mother her new boyfriend’s simplicity in lifestyle, hoping it will deter the fashion socialite from going any further down this path. With increasingly devious manipulations, it’s soon evident that this isn’t Lolo’s first go around at destroying Violette’s love life.
The plot of Lolo might not be anything fiercely original, being very close to the Duplass brothers film, Cyrus. Where this film succeeds is with it’s dialogue, which had me laughing lots right at the beginning, as soon as Violette gets in the spa hot tub with her friend Ariane and right away starts complaining about the intrusiveness of the water jets on her private areas. Delpy’s unwavering uptightness and the adorable nature of Dany Boon in all aspects of his character completely make up for the horrible bastard Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) is and how much you would like to send him head first off of a balcony. These performances will completely brush any of the familiar things aside.
There are a few stylistic choices that Julie Delpy makes in this film that bog the film down, if only because they are so loosely used and don’t seem to gel with the tone she is trying to go for. The previously mentioned Oedipus complex is actually address in a couple scenes, directly involving a couple breast feeding allusions that would have work way better being unsaid. By the point of the movie it starts being directly shown, we, as an audience, have already made this correlation and any other push of it is kind of overkill. It doesn’t bring the film down a whole lot but it was something I didn’t think fit at all.
I think something that also really made me have fun with this was Jean-Rene as a character. While we are predominantly fixated on Violette and Lolo and their actions, Dany Boon’s character is going through a massive change himself. Moving from his seaside home to the big city bustle of Paris, it is most definitely a seismic shift as he deals with the anger of gridlock traffic, the fast paced nature of their metro traffic and the high class snobbery of the circles Violette runs in, complete with a disastrous encounter with Karl Lagerfeld at one of her parties. I feel I could really relate to Jean-Rene and he quickly became a really endearing part for me.
When I was saying that romantic comedies rarely impress me, it’s really something like this film that comes in to break that mold. The equation is simple. If you can get a couple of actors and put them into situations I can believe and a script that has a real charm and emotional weight to it, you got me. Delpy seems to understand that the way to succeed is to have both sides of the romance be well-rounded enough that you aren’t taking sides but are instead just waiting for the dust to settle and the happiness to be realized. For me, Lolo just worked and I give it a four out of five.