It’s hard to tell where a movie like LOL goes wrong. Adapted from a French film by the same name, the movie meanders aimlessly through the ridiculous problems of bourgie Lola (Miley Cyrus) and her “painfully hip” mom, Anne (Demi Moore), who just doesn’t get what it’s like to be a teen anymore. Director Lisa Azuelos is responsible for both of these films, translating and directing her French original for American audiences, but something gets lost in translation.
Honestly, one of the biggest issues for me was getting into that teen mindset. At 25 years old, I have not been a teen for some time now, so I’m not sure how accurate Cyrus’s portrayal of teenage hardships is. However, I will say one thing. If I’m removed from the teen scene and only 25, Azuelos is a lost cause. Not necessarily because of her age, but because of her voice. The movie is littered with countless “LOL”s and scattered “what r u up 2”s that wreak of an out-of-touch director scrambling to reconnect with the teenage demographic. Maybe that is how kids talk these days, but in conversations that are undoubtedly supposed to demonstrate the urbane wit of Lola and her mother, the dialogue comes off as stilted and unnatural.
However, to blame that solely on the script is unfair. Cyrus fumbles through even the most basic lines and when asked to portray any range of emotions, more frequently than not, she looks constipated. Unfortunately. LOL’s better actors and actresses are rarely given a chance to showcase their talent as the film blatantly panders to the ego of its stars, Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore. Talents like the film’s Ashley Hinshaw, who plays Lola’s friend Emily, are given significantly more interesting character arcs, but afforded considerably less screen time. Still, in her scenes, Hinshaw deftly balances the levity of the teenage experience as well as its myriad of complications.
While Miley Cyrus can always blame her youth, the adults of the movie have no such excuse. With Demi Moore, it’s difficult to tell if she is playing the role poorly or if it’s just a bad character. As a mother herself, Azuelos is too gentle in her portrayal of the matriarch. What is supposed to be seen as sincere and understanding comes off as something else entirely. For instance, early on in the film, after Lola has had a difficult day, she comes home to find her mother in the bathtub with one of her younger siblings. This is the first time Anne is introduced and it’s naked in the tub with her kid. Okay, whatever floats your boat… it is only when Lola disrobes and Anne chastises her daughter for her brazen Brazilian wax that things start to get weird. Okay, sure, I come from the stereotypical catholic repressed family, but a teenage daughter getting naked in front of her mom is weird, right? Or is that just a me thing? As the film progresses, Anne gets upset when she finds out Lola isn’t the little girl that she thought she was, even after she admits that she encourages her daughter to be her own woman. It is these types of inconsistencies that keeps LOL from being truly effective. Given that LOL prides itself on the duality of the parent/teenage experience, even going so far as to provide us with parallel mother-daughter sex scenes, LOL has a lot to learn.
However, Anne isn’t the only problematic grown-up of the film. In fact, the adults of the film are the undoing of LOL. While most are painfully one-note, frequently not even given names, others are downright hypocritical. Anne loses her cool when she thinks her daughter is smoking pot, yet is seen smoking a joint on a handful of occasions. It’s possible that Azuelos was deliberate in doing this, but the film is so neutered that any meaning is drowned in wishy-washy, feel-good nonsense. That’s the real problem with LOL is that it wants so badly to be liked and to be relevant that it ends up saying nothing at all.
Much like the real teenage experience (or at least as I remember it) LOL is filled with countless petty dramas that feel insignificant long before the end credits roll. It desperately seeks to recreate a teenage experience so many of us were desperately trying to forget. Unfortunately, it isn’t even effective in that regard. Between Cyrus’s feeble attempts at acting and Azuelos waxing poetic about misspent youth or some other such nonsense, LOL is an excruciating exercise in self-importance and insignificance.
LOL will be released on DVD and blu-ray on July 31. Special features include director and cast commentary and several featurettes about the director and the making of the film.