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Lola is Someone's idea of the typical teen.
Her name's not that long, but she still shortens it to LOL because, you know, it's hip and all—one of those acronyms the kids use, which means it must be cool. And this movie desperately wants to be cool. I'm jiggy with it, the film tries to tell its intended audience. I know what you're about. You're all angsty due to relational drama. Your parents are always harshing your mellow, always getting bent out of shape over just a little weed or a small condom wrapper. Why can't these mothers and fathers just let y'all be … y'know, cool?
And Lola is especially cool. So cool that she looks just like Hannah Montana—that one-time Disney character who graced 3 bazillion pink backpacks, notebooks and toothbrushes, and was idolized by scads of girly girls. She sounds like Hannah, too, now that I think about it. In fact, if Hannah was the sort to drink and smoke pot and sleep with her boyfriend and scream at her mother, why, Lola'd be the spitting image of her.
But Lola's actually too cool to be Hannah Montana. She's so much more mature, so much more real. Hannah? No one digs that lame-o anymore: Lola, now, that's where it's at.
So says this Someone who thinks Lola's a typical teen, anyway.
Hey, in truth, LOL isn't all bad. Just mostly. Lola, for all her many, many faults, cares about her mother: She's just too wrapped up in her own too-cool angst to show it much. And Lola's mom cares about her daughter. She's just struggling, like many parents do, with when to lay down the law and when to just let teens be teens.
And the movie does make an important point: If your kids are into some problematic stuff, isn't it best to know about it? To communicate about that stuff as openly and honestly as possible? The movie says yes, and so would Plugged In. The ability for parents and teens to talk with one another is absolutely critical.
It's just what parents then must do with that information … well, that seems to be where LOL and Plugged In diverge a bit.
At a party, Lola figures she'll "go to hell" for allowing her friends to get her chaperoning grandmother drunk. During a field trip to France, teens hang out with host families that display religious iconography on their walls. One home is graced with a simple cross; another is filled with medieval artifacts harkening back to Joan of Arc, a national hero and Catholic saint.
Alas, all this apparent piety among the French has somehow made them horribly gullible. Lola loses her virginity to her boyfriend, Kyle, after she enters the host family's house under the pretext that she's his deaf-mute cousin who needs a place to sleep for the night. We see the two kissing and making out—Lola wearing a bra, Kyle shirtless. Meanwhile, over where Lola's supposed to be sleeping, her roommate, Emily, is hooking up with Max, a geeky kid at school she's been sexting on the sly. Lola and Kyle are shown in bed together before they get to France too—both in partial stages of undress. (Lola says, in narration mode, that nothing happened.)
Max and Emily's relationship is one of the film's more sordid: It begins with Max just making a series of crass come-ons to the uninterested Emily. But when Emily engages in some anonymous online video chats with someone she thinks is a complete stranger, she eventually discovers that her secret online partner is Max. While online, she sticks a webcam inside a raw chicken, thinking it'll photograph like her own insides. And the two have sex in a bathroom stall, where we hear movements and moaning. They smooch on occasion and send dirty pictures to each other. Max uses a pic featuring Emily's bra-covered breasts as his phone wallpaper.
Most of the time Lola's not having sex, she's thinking about it. When she learns that her old boyfriend, Chad, cheated on her during the summer, she lies to him and says she "hooked up" with someone too. (Her ex calls her a "ho" throughout the rest of the movie.) Worried about being caught in the lie, she encourages her friend Jeremy to sleep with her so she can get the "requisite" experience. He refuses. "I respect you too much," Jeremy tells her, to which Lola says that boys and their sense of respect "sucks." Jeremy does smooch with Lola to make Kyle (whom Lola breaks up with for a time) jealous.
Elsewhere, girls walk around in revealing underwear. We see them dressing and undressing. And they make comments about what other girls look like in their skivvies. Lola's mother, Anne, shares a bath with Lola's younger sister (we see them from the shoulders up); Lola walks in and strips off her clothes (we see her panties fall to the floor and her wrapped in a towel), and Anne's shocked that Lola got a Brazilian wax on her pubic area. "I'm not going to let you be a porn star," she exclaims. To which Lola says it's none of her mother's business how she grooms herself.
Similarly, Emily tries to sneak several thong-style panties into her Paris suitcase. Her mother finds them and shouts, "These are for bad girls with bad grades and no futures! This is garbage!" But viewers are supposed to sympathize with Emily on this score as we watch her "win" by sneaking a pair in at the last second. Anne finds a condom wrapper taped inside Lola's diary—a memento of her night with Kyle. She also finds another wrapper after a party.
That's lots of bad behavior. And the teens' parents aren't any better. Anne is divorced, and her friends actively encourage her to get out there and have sex. "One night," says one. "Quick and dirty." "It's not my style," Anne says, to which another friend says that if she was divorced, she'd be sleeping with another guy every night. (Her husband walks in and hears her, taking it all in stride.)
Why is Anne so hesitant? Because she's actually sleeping with her ex-husband on the sly. But when she learns that he's cheating on her with someone else (perhaps several someones), she breaks it off and starts dating a narcotics officer. They sleep together for the first time the same night Lola sleeps with Kyle. Their interlude features kissing and moving and sensuality.
Students catch their French teacher leaving an adult store. Emily flirts with her trigonometry teacher. (She's rebuffed.) Chad tries to look down a girl's shirt, saying he likes what's underneath. We see a picture of Lola and Emily kissing—just for fun. Guys talk about girls being "in heat." Lola adjusts her breasts to look more attractive. We hear the word "slut" frequently. Lola and her friends seem to make out constantly with Kyle and his friends. (Their level of PDA is such that at some schools they'd be expelled.) We see a graffiti depiction of breasts.
Lola and Chad come to blows after he calls her a "skank a‑‑ ho." (She does all the hitting.) Anne slaps Lola after Lola calls her a "b‑‑ch." Kyle's father smashes Kyle's guitar.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear the s-word four or five times and a smattering of other profanities, including "a‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "b‑‑tard." God's name is misused at least 20 times; Jesus' once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Pretty much everyone, teens and adults alike, smokes marijuana and drinks alcohol. Anne and her friends twice share joints. And Anne's detective boyfriend—a narcotics cop, remember—is there for one of those get-togethers. During another party, adults wonder aloud if any of their children do drugs. They all say no … as those self-same kids smoke weed in Lola's bedroom. Lola throws a party brimming with alcohol and drugs. (To do away with their chaperone, Lola's grandmother, they get her drunk on Scotch. She passes out in a bedroom.) Teens are given, and accept, glasses of wine in France.
At an anti-drug presentation at school, the police officer prepares students to see a picture of what long-time drug use can do to someone … then presents a picture of the school principal.
Other Negative Elements
Lola yells at and belittles her mother, often in front of Anne's peers. Anne responds with 1) a look of exasperation, 2) an embarrassed smile, and/or 3) a dismissive comment. The fact that Lola often lies to her mother's face is just as frequently, and easily, forgiven and/or laughed off. Yet the film suggests that Anne is incredibly strict with her children: When she expresses misgivings about Lola living with a strange family in France for a week, Lola sighs, "They're French. They're probably stricter than you." (Which, when you think about it, might be the funniest—albeit unintentionally—line in the movie.)
Kyle's family situation is no better. The boy's grades are bad, and his father refuses to let him play his music until he raises them. He doesn't raise his grades, but continues to sneak out of the house to play anyway. When Kyle's father discovers Kyle's been using and carrying pot, he tells him he can't play music anymore and smashes his guitar. Kyle then buys another one in France and proceeds to practice over at Lola's house. When Kyle's father learns of the subterfuge, he goes to a "Battle of the Bands" gig his son's playing and … when he sees how nice they sound, smiles and raises his hand in salute. All is forgiven.
Teens splash around in public fountains in France (great way to increase Americans' respect abroad, people!), whisper insults about their host families, draw graffiti on walls and generally just act like jerks.
Listen, I'm not completely clueless. In some ways, the Someone I referred to in the introduction is perhaps more right than I'd like to admit. There are teens who use pot. Teens have sex. Teens lie to their parents. Chances are, some of you reading this right now have had conversations with your teens that you never, ever thought you'd have.
Nor am I particularly shocked that onetime teen role model Miley Cyrus stars in this really horrible movie. After all, she's made a number of bad career decisions lately, and this is actually not the most egregious.
But what saddens me so is the movie's core message—that what I might call a mistake or a sin, the film would call normal, unavoidable, perhaps even good. LOL does indeed laugh out loud at parental efforts to keep their kids on the straight-and-narrow. Perhaps (the movie tells us, while patting us on the head) we parents mean well when we try to keep our kids away from drugs or encourage purity before marriage or, heaven forbid, ask them to put schoolwork ahead of playing in an indie band. But, hey, these kids are teens now—maybe even older teens. Shouldn't we let them make their own decisions? Run their own lives? Live a little? Sow a few wild oats?
This whole myth is such an irony, really—the idea that engaging in problematic adult behavior actually makes boys men and girls women. That smoking weed and sleeping around is somehow a sign of maturity.
Truth is, there's a reason why even those who do engage in such behavior typically do so for a season, not a lifetime: They grow up. They come to understand that maturity isn't a matter of engaging in everything we could, but in everything we should.
LOL doesn't care. It steadfastly says the should is a curse, and the could is cause for a party. A wild party.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Miley Cyrus as Lola; Douglas Booth as Kyle; Ashley Greene as Ashley; Adam G. Sevani as Max; Demi Moore as Anne; Gina Gershon as Kathy; Jean-Luc Bilodeau as Jeremy
Lisa Azuelos ( )
May 4, 2012
July 31, 2012