Director Appreciation Week 2 Review: LOL (2006)

LOL is one of those frustratingly difficult to find early Joe Swanberg fils. However, unlike some of his work, particularly from the 2011 binge, it is at least accessible somewhere, admittedly only after some intense digging. LOL builds upon the themes of the short film Swanberg directed called Hissy Fits in 2005. Hissy Fits allowed him to briefly touch upon technology and relationships, and here it becomes a fully fledged, if slightly disturbing, idea.We focus on three men and their quest for love/sex (delete as appropriate). What these three friends share in common is firstly that they are self-involved, rather horrible men and secondly that technology plays a huge role in their lives. Films focusing on internet relationships and sexting have been growing in number in the last few years with the great technological boom we are currently experiencing, and it is intriguing to see this, perhaps one of the first movies dealing with such niche topics, created a whole decade ago!

Tim (Swanberg) is a man who pays more attention to his laptop than his girlfriend; whilst Chris is in a long distance relationship with Greta (Greta Gerwig) based almost entirely on nude sexting. Alex’s story is perhaps the main tale of the film and is may be the most depressing to see. In his quest to meet this too-good-to-be-true lady he sees pictures of on the internet, he completely ignores the beautiful and adorable Tessa who is nothing but good to him. It’s a movie about three men being very stupid and three women who are too good to have to put up with it.

LOL is probably Swanberg’s least accessible movie. At the very least, it is the Swanberg movie that casual audiences are most likely to turn off after twenty minutes. That is because the premise outlined above only really becomes clear thirty to forty minutes into the movie. It’s an incredibly slow build even for a film of the mumblecore genre, and at times near the start the audience will question if there is any plot at all. There’s also the jolting, unnecessary music video clips inserted at various points. Gradually it kicks into gear. The problem most will have is that that gear is probably barely third, most likely second. This is Swanberg barely pushing past a trundle. A brisk walking pace is too much to ask. But here it half works, because the pace and the spaces it creates, allows the under-appreciated social commentary aspect to come to the fore.

Swanberg’s first film is by no means a classic, but most people’s aren’t. This is Joe finding his feet. And despite the slowness of it, there’s some interesting concepts to behold, and the promise of better to come.
It’s recommended for Swanberg purists only though.

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