The Citizen Kane of Awful: LOL

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When people combine the words “LOL” and “Miley Cyrus” it’s normally because of a flagrant health and safety abuse on her building site. Not today. Here’s the plot of LOL for you to chew over: “As a new year at school begins, Lola’s heart is broken by her boyfriend, though soon she’s surprised by her best friend, promising musician Kyle, who reveals his feelings for her.” If you’re anything other than a 14-year-old girl it’s biologically impossible to find a glimmer of interest in that premise.

The Good

Welcome to big school

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The opening shot is quite nicely done with a slowly drifting camera that follows Lola’s friends as she introduces them in voiceover. An unoriginal idea, but well executed, with some nice timelapse alongside the slo-mo. If you had a fondness for rash comparisons and lying through your teeth you could almost call LOL the Green Wing of mediocre American teen dramas.

A positive parent/teenager relationship

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In LOL, Lola is occasionally nice to her mum, which is a rare event in any teen film. In fact, Lola is actually a remarkably level-headed person. She shows massive self-restraint to not rip her ex, Chad, to pieces when he brutally dumps her and then huge maturity to continue spending time with Chad and his new girlfriend. It makes you wonder if Miley’s calamitous 2013 could have been avoided if she’d gone more method for the role.

Lola and her mum are human; they have their flaws, but they’re well-developed and complex. America could do a lot worse. You hear me America? Bring back this Miley!

And here’s to you, Mr Robinson

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Emily (Ashley Hinshaw) has a massive crush on her maths teacher Mr. Ross (Austin Nichols) – as does every other girl in the school. The situation is played well for laughs, with both actors putting in strong performances. Nichols is gloriously uncomfortable and panicked and Hinshaw fully commits to her idiotically doe-eyed role.

Gender politics

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There’s actually a decent sequence that intercuts Lola talking to her friend Jeremy, and Lola’s mum having a dinner party downstairs. The writing is sharp as the two conversations toe the line between hypocrisy and irony. Downstairs, the group discuss the stereotypical views on gender and sexuality while upstairs, the same discussion is inverted for laughs. Like a lot of this film so far it’s well-written and occasionally witty.

Allez les bleus!!!

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The film takes a bizarre sidestep in its third act as Lola and her friends visit Paris on a school trip. They arrive in a rural French village, twenty minutes outside the capital and suddenly everything is different. The style becomes glaringly mundane, and almost documentary-like in places, but it’s suited perfectly to the new locale. The French families are gloriously brazen stereotypes of course, but all are a quirky delight, in particular the mother and daughter that evoke The Shining set in a French B&B if Jack Torrance was obsessed with Joan of Arc.

The Bad

Chad is an unbelievable asshole

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In both senses of the word. Who sees their girlfriend for the first time in months and in between kisses tells her that he “hooked up with some girl” at the camp he was working at? And then, when Lola lies to pretend she did the same, he just says: “Good, because I wouldn’t want you to be alone”. Officially the worst way to break up with someone.

This is SO not convincing dialogue

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It may stun you to hear that I’m not a teenage girl, but I’m still convinced that no one has talked like this since the days of Clueless. What was a parody then feels even more cringeworthy now, with Lola making profound statements like: “This is SO not the perfect day” at every turn. I’m surprised she didn’t record that one as a tribute to Lou Reed.

It’s a little bit ableist

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This is in ‘The Bad’ rather than ‘The Awful’ because it’s subtle and brief, but LOL has an uncomfortable attitude towards people with disabilities. The girl that Kyle and Lloyd are staying with has Down’s Syndrome and Lloyd in particular is discomfited at the idea of having to share a room with her when they run out of spare beds in the house. Even more flippantly, Kyle pretends that Lola is his cousin and that she’s a deaf mute. For some reason. The film is somewhat redeemed by the fact that Lloyd overcomes his awkwardness by the end of the visit, but it feels horribly like a patronising moral lesson for the target teen audience.

The Awful

The attempts at humour

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“We’re in slo-mo cos that’s how the hot girls always show up. Just kidding!” HAHAHAHA. HAHA. HA. No.

In fairness, the rest of the film is much funnier, but this opening line soured the first half hour for me.

Calling the film LOL because the lead is called Lola.

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“Trying to live, love, and laugh out loud…which is nice because my name is Lola, but everyone calls me LOL” I don’t need to explain this one.

Conclusion

Star Rating: 3/5

Kane Rating: 1/5

I’m probably the least qualified person in the world to make this statement apart from me in 50 years’ time, but I think this is a great film for any teenage girl and her mother to watch. The trailer did not look promising, but the finished product was well-directed and sharply written. The social media angle (thankfully) wasn’t played up as much as I feared and the characters were actually all believable, relatively complex and likeable. I demand sequels called ROFL, LMAO and ROFLCOPTER.

Tune in next time as I begin a new CkoA special. With Star Wars Episode VII generating the same fevered buzz as that Phantom Menace teaser poster did back in 1999, I think it’s time to revisit the much maligned prequel trilogy. Are Star Wars Episodes I-III as bad as everyone likes to think, or was a jilted generation of Jedi-lovers just taking out its disappointment on George Lucas? I’ll be finding out, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, with The Phantom Menace.

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