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Shot on the ultra cheap — $3000 — and improvised by the nonprofessional cast, Joe Swanberg's rueful look at three Chicago-based Web heads in their twenties systematically alienating the women in their lives is scruffy, loosely structured and piercingly perceptive about the ways in which technology that supposedly brings people together actually keeps...read more

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Shot on the ultra cheap — $3000 — and improvised by the nonprofessional cast, Joe Swanberg's rueful look at three Chicago-based Web heads in their twenties systematically alienating the women in their lives is scruffy, loosely structured and piercingly perceptive about the ways in which technology that supposedly brings people together actually keeps them apart.

Musician Alex (composer/cowriter Kevin Bewersdorf), whose song collages incorporate sounds generated by homemade electronic instruments and video clips of friends — real and online — vocalizing, corresponds obsessively with "Internet girlfriends" like soft-core starlet Tessa (Kate Winterich). Convinced Tessa would be willing to meet him in real life if he just got himself to St. Louis, where she lives, Alex dreams up a nonexistent tour for his nonexistent band and persuades girl-next-door type Walter (Tipper Newton) to give him a lift, oblivious to the fact that she has a little crush on him and, unlike Tessa, is actually there. Tim (Swanberg) and Ada (Brigid Reagan) are on the rocks because he's more emotionally invested in his laptop than in her. Tim's friend Chris (cowriter C. Mason Wells) has just moved to Chicago from New York and is trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, Greta (Wells' real-life girlfriend, Greta Gerwig). But his emotional bullying is driving a wedge between them: It's not enough that Greta agrees to phone sex, she has to convince Chris she wants to do it. Further, the sexy photos she sends to his camera phone aren't explicit enough for his liking — is she trying to drive him to online porn sites that make him feel bad about himself? All three are socially stunted by hours spent indulging make-believe intimacies mediated by technology that encourages subtle misrepresentation, no-consequence toying with strangers' heads and getting out when things become complicated or emotionally challenging.

Swanberg, a professional Web designer, clearly empathizes with homo technogeekus, but that doesn't stop him pitilessly exposing the passive-aggressive misogyny that underlies their "it's all cool" exteriors. That the film's women get short shrift is hardly a surprise: Even when the men manage to forge connections with real, live girls, they're only half there, and the half that's present can, at best, pose faux-ironic fan-boy questions like, "Hey, which do you think we'll have first — a black president or a robot president?"

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Shot on the ultra cheap — $3000 — and improvised by the nonprofessional cast, Joe Swanberg's rueful look at three Chicago-based Web heads in their twenties systematically alienating the women in their lives is scruffy, loosely structured and piercingly per… (more)

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