By Lucas Shaw
NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) - It's a new world in Hollywood,
where sexually and emotionally liberated female protagonists
have taken center stage. A world where "Girls'" Lena Dunham can
take her top off with impunity, exposing her ample midsection,
where "Bridesmaids'" Maya Rudolph can defecate in the middle of
Though not all filmmakers would, Daryl Wein and Zoe
Lister-Jones welcome inclusion of their latest film, "Lola Vs.,"
in this new movement.
"We're part of a moment that is pretty exciting for women in
film and TV, where the portrayals of women in leading roles are
shifting to be more unapologetic and honest than in the past,"
Lister-Jones told TheWrap.
Their movie's main character, Lola, is something of a
disaster - all right, she's a total mess. After getting dumped
by her fiancé Luke ("The Killing's" Joel Kinnaman), she gorges
on smoked salmon, gets kicked out of a strip club, alienates her
friends - and sleeps with a few men along the way.
Yet while she struggles mightily with life on her own, she
is a strong female lead, one whose actions define the movie,
which opens in limited release on June 8.
"She is in a crummy situation but chooses to behave
crummily. There aren't that many female character that are so
agentive," actress Greta Gerwig, who portrays Lola, told
TheWrap. "It's her actions that are propelling things forward,
not someone else's. All of that was really appealing to me."
Wein and Lister-Jones, who have been in a six-year
relationship, conceived "Lola Vs." a few years ago, and in some
ways it is an offshoot of their 2009 breakout, "Breaking
That movie explored what happens when a couple decides they
are too codependent and must experiment with an open
relationship. It was based on the filmmaking couple's own
experience, one that scarred Lister-Jones.
"I called it my year of traumatizing sexual escapades," she
said. Those escapades, which she relayed to her mother, inspired
"Lola." They also produced a particularly memorable line, "I'm a
slut, but I'm a good person!"
Lister-Jones acknowledged that the line "rang true" given
her experience - but, she quickly noted, she never yelled it in
the street like Lola does.
"Breaking Upwards" and "Lola Vs." are united in their
depiction of women struggling with codependence. But if Lola the
character cannot fathom life without a boy, "Lola" the film is
not interested in finding her one.
Lister-Jones and Wein are expressive about their distaste
for the standard romantic comedy, in particular the conventional
plots and the passive women.
"Everyone has the same perception of what a romantic comedy
is; It's a big, stupid, fluffy date movie," Wein said. He
struggled to name a single one that inspired him, ultimately
settling on "My Best Friend's Wedding."
That attitude lured Gerwig, a blossoming star who earned
leading roles in the latest films from Whit Stillman ("Damsels
in Distress") and Woody Allen ("From Rome With Love").
In particular, she was drawn to Lola's propensity for making
a lot of mistakes - big mistakes, life-altering mistakes.
In that vein, all three - Gerwig, Lister-Jones and Wein -
referenced HBO's "Girls" as a project with similar aspirations
Dunham's Hannah does what she wants when she wants and never
apologizes. "There are not that many grounded, interesting
female-driven stories that are funny," Wein said.
If this desire to remake the portrayal of women in Hollywood
sounds strange coming from Wein, he has a secret for you.
"I once was a woman, so it's completely based on my life
pre-sex change operation," Wein said, sarcasm dripping onto his
In a separate interview, Lister-Jones described her
boyfriend as a feminist. Indeed, Wein's commitment to a new
style of female-driven comedy is evident.
"Women have always been funny and will always be funny," he
told TheWrap. "They are just as funny as men; they just have to
be utilized well. They have to be written for. That's something
we were trying to do with 'Lola.'"
Wein and Lister-Jones have attempted to further disrupt the
traditional cinematic treatment of women and romance by also
hewing closer to the establishment. This is their first project
with a studio, Fox Searchlight, and Lister-Jones said they had
commercial viability in mind with this project.
Searchlight is also the studio behind unconventional
comedies like "Little Miss Sunshine" and "(500) Days of Summer."
If this movie finds a similar audience, it could open up the
world for Lister-Jones and Wein, accustomed to shooting in their
native New York City.
Where would they go next?
"We're shooting in Dubai," Lister-Jones deadpanned.
"Exclusive for TheWrap."
At the very least, the Middle East would provide a brand new
challenge in advancing female empowerment.
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