December 11, 2007

Mini-review: "LOL"

(CCLaP publishes mini-reviews of both books and movies on a regular basis, none lasting more than a few hundred words. Click here for the full list.)

LOL, a film by Joe Swanberg

LOL (movie; 2006)
Written by Joe Swanberg and Kevin Bewersdorf
Directed by Joe Swanberg

Regular readers will remember that I actually did a mini-feature earlier this year on Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg (here are part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4, for those who are interested), who has recently become a focal point of the burgeoning so-called "mumblecore" movement here in the US that has been getting so much attention lately. It's not so much a deliberate school of thought, as readers of that original feature will remember, but rather a shared ethos about filmmaking and the tools being used that defines mumblecore, done mostly for budgetary reasons instead of artistic or political ones; the term itself, for example, started as a joke about the crappy sound quality of all the films these moviemakers were churning out with their consumer-level equipment, but has become so ubiquitous that it almost marks by now an official "sign" of a mumblecore film.

Back when the feature first ran, I was able to get my hands on Swanberg's first movie, the 2005 sexually explicit slacker love story Kissing On the Mouth; unfortunately, however, I had entered Queue List Hell with his second feature, 2006's LOL, and of course his latest film Hannah Takes the Stairs had just come out at that point in full-blown theatres. But finally, a mere four months later, Netflix finally got around to shipping me LOL, which I just got to finally watch for the first time this week; and what a shame that I didn't get to see it back when I had the opportunity to interview Swanberg for the CCLaP Podcast, because LOL turns out to be an infinitely better movie than Kissing On the Mouth, and inspired yet another million new questions I'd now like to ask the writer/director.

The movie ostensibly covers the same ground as Swanberg's two others -- neurotic Chicago slackers in their twenties, that is, who find an infinite amount of ways to screw up whatever relationships they find themselves in, whether romantic in nature or platonic or purely sexual, exhibiting a series of petty passive/aggressive behaviors that makes every person in history who has ever outgrown their twenties want to smack every person in history who's currently in their twenties. Here, though, Swanberg specifically tells the inter-related stories through the technology of the Web 2.0 generation; couples who both hook up and break up through their cellphones, friends who would rather text their friends on their laptops than have sex with their girlfriend laying right next to them. The stories themselves are nothing too outrageous or unique, just tales of recent college graduates being the idiots they are; but by Swanberg being such a master over this equipment he and his peers use to communicate, he can examine in LOL the very way these relationships are changing because of the equipment itself, in a way an older and more out-of-touch filmmaker simply couldn't.

A great, great film in my opinion, essential for anyone my age (late thirties) or older, who wants to deeply understand this infinitely confusing generation immediately behind ours, what with their MySpace and the YouTube and the cellphone porn and whatnot. A must-see for fans of smart films, as is all of Swanberg's other work.

Out of 10: 9.7

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:51 PM, December 11, 2007. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |