Published May 27, 2016There are a lot of sharp, charming elements to admire in Julie Delpy's sixth directorial effort, Lolo, but by trying to straddle the line between light romantic comedy and incestuous satire, it doesn't fully commit to either one.
Delpy's protagonist, Violette, is a soon-to-be 45-year-old single mom and fashion industry workaholic living in Paris. When she goes on a spa weekend in the countryside with best friend Ariane (Karin Viard, whose sexually explicit, droll one-liners mean she steals many of her scenes), she meets Jean-René (Dany Boon), a bumbling but sweet computer programmer. After an adorably gross meet cute in which Jean-René accidentally dumps a huge fish onto Violette's lap, the two hit it off tremendously. When Jean-René moves to Paris to develop a financial software program, their relationship seems destined to flourish, but there's a roadblock: Violette's 19-year-old son, Eloi a.k.a. Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), who's hated every single one of mom's beaus and seems to hate this latest one the most. Lolo plots a series of diabolical schemes to make sure she dumps him ASAP.
Lolo's machinations run the gamut from farcical antics to full-on sociopathy, but he never transcends his characterization as a one-note, moustache-twirling villainy, a bratty hipster with no motivation other than to make sure he continuously benefits from his mom's art-world hook-ups. Lacoste plays Lolo with a perfectly slouchy, smirking charm, but the film doesn't spend much time exploring any deeper motivations behind why he's so insistent on making sure his mother doesn't settle down. His final comeuppance comes across as a corny revenge-twist without any real closure or insight, and there's barely any exploration as to why he's so attached to his mother beyond "only child syndrome." There are weird Oedipal overtones in Lolo that occupy an odd space — the film's not dark enough to pull off incestuous drama, but Violette's relationship with Lolo isn't funny enough to be a black comedy, either.
Aside from this, the film does make some great jabs at the Parisian art scene, and even if it probably requires a level of familiarity with French culture in order to really get some of the jokes, it's pretty obvious that the universe Violette has thrust Jean-René into is full of pretentious snobs. It's the sort of snobbishness that rings true of most small-town transplants to big cities, especially a big city that's portrayed as caring a hell of a lot about self-image. For a guy who doesn't, and is dating a woman who works in an industry founded entirely on caring about appearance, it's a difficult shift to make. Lolo does a good job at showing just how hard this can be, even if Violette's sudden realization that perhaps she is the problem seems a bit abrupt.
Lolo's dialogue occasionally shines with smart, funny one-liners, and it's refreshing to see two women in their 40s have sexually explicit conversations about their lovers — there's a sort of Parisian Sex in the City sensibility to these scenes. It's well-cast and well-acted, and Delpy and Boon have a sweet, dorky chemistry that makes their romantic scenes together work. It's just that the film doesn't know how to balance this breeziness with Lolo's dark, disturbing scheming, and jumps from satirical farce to light-hearted rom-com too constantly to commit.
(Pacific Northwest Pictures)