The opening moments of Julie Delpy’s Lolo are a hoot. Violette (Delpy) and her best friend Ariane (Karin Viard) have gone on a spa retreat and are relaxing in a jetted hot tub. Ariane is enthusiastically enjoying her pussy massage, Violette is less impressed. It’s something we get to see so rarely: two middle-aged women talking so candidly about sex and it not being presented as an outlier, anomaly or even particularly vulgar. It’s not that it doesn’t descend into juvenile vulgarity—it most certainly does as the conversations get increasingly graphic on their train ride home after Violette has hooked up with Jean-Rene (Dany Boon). This is something that men onscreen are continuously celebrated for, but women who also partake are seen as damaged and out of line. Lolo takes it as a given.
And that’s why Lolo is so refreshing. Delpy manages to mix the adolescent obsession with sex and bodily humour with genuine sweetness and romance all while juggling the realities of being an adult with a high pressure job, single parenthood and attempting to find the one to stave off the fear of dying alone. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but overall Lolo is light and entertaining without ever insulting the audience’s intelligence. We have situational, awkward comedy and gross-out humour, but there is also strong reliance on Freud (no need to read into the Oedipal Complex here: it’s front and centre) and a deep understanding of human relationships and interactions.
Delpy has proven with her involvement in the Before series that she intimately understands human relationships and that serves her well with Lolo. The relationship between Violette and Jean-Rene is messy and never quite a perfect fit outside of the bedroom, but that’s what makes it ring true. The insertion of JR (as Violette’s grown son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) likes to call him) into the single parent/child dynamic leads to a string of unfortunate incidents as Lolo becomes increasingly despirate to regain his mother’s attention.
Lacoste plays the disgruntled, moody teenager to perfection, making Lolo a straight up villain instead of a messed up kid. The depiction of Lolo is something else that Delpy gets very right. So often working mothers are thrown under the bus and blamed for their children’s problems, but there is never any doubt that Lolo’s problems are all his. Violette has been nothing but a loving and attentive mother, but there comes a time when it’s time for children to make their own way. Lolo has by far exceeded his welcome.
Where the film really shines however is in the moments that put Boon and Delpy on screen together. Delpy’s refined presence perfectly plays off Boon’s simply, charming quirkiness. The two share a delightful chemistry of a kind we don’t see very often on screen. It’s an odd and unexplainable attraction, but isn’t that really the only kind for a real couple? They are so comfortable with one another that it’s hard to not just sit back and enjoy them fumble through the relationship minefield—helped along of course, by Lolo.
Lolo premieres at TIFF15 on Friday, September 18th at 6:30pm at Roy Thomson Hall. Additional screenings are on Saturday, September 19th at 12:30pm at Isabel Bader and Sunday, September 20th at 9:15am at Scotiabank 2.
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