Posted May 5, 2012 by Daniel Hodgson in
LOL is the kind of movie so uninteresting that you could spend the entire time texting—not that one ever should.
I know, I know. As a critic, I’m supposed to see everything, yet somehow I missed The Last Song, which starred Miley Cyrus. Oops. But I have made up for it with LOL. I have more than made up for it. I may take off the next Adam Sandler movie just to balance the universe.
LOL is a film so bad, it can’t be discussed without spoilers. Just how bad is it? One of my professors in film school once said that you can tell how good a movie is by how much you touched your popcorn. If you’re so absorbed by the film you forgot about your concessions, you have just seen a great movie.
That was before the iPhone. During my screening early this morning of The Avengers, there came a point where not a single person in the enormous IMAX theater had their iPhone on. A smart film it was not, but it was engaging as entertainment. LOL, on the other hand, is the kind of movie so uninteresting that you could spend the entire time texting—not that one ever should.
At one point in the film, Cyrus’s mother (Demi Moore) threatens to take away her iPhone. Somehow within the space of 24 hours and two screenings, I went from the fate of the world hanging in the balance in The Avengers, to a teenager fighting to keep her smart phone in LOL. They’re both potentially decent dilemmas, but each must make us care what happens. It’s not really the size of the stakes that matter, but rather how much we care about them. In LOL‘s case, we do not.
Caring would require us to be invested in the characters. In addition to Cyrus, there is the The Blonde Girl, the Emo-looking Boy, the Black Guy, the Hispanic Girl, the Boy with Glasses, and the Slut—to borrow LOL‘s term for her. The Blonde doesn’t act like the type, nor do the other characters act like their types (except for the latter girl, whom I’ll from now on call the “Popular Girl”). They do not act like anything. They do not posses their own identities, but are defined by how they relate to each other. The Blond Girl is Cyrus’s best friend, The Emo-looking kid is best friends with Cyrus’s ex-boyfriend, etc. These characters are strangers to us, and I suspect they’re strangers to themselves.
Movies are about people who want to do something or be something. In LOL‘s case, Cyrus and friends want to go to Paris with their French class, compete in to the Battle of the Bands, and sleep with one another—or in case of The Blonde, with her Trig teacher (this is true of every girl in the trig class, an impossibly attractive collection of students). Why it is so important that they go to Paris or the Battle of the Bands remains unexplained. They could just as well to go to Jersey and the State Fair for all it matters.
Following dramatic form, someone or something must be in the characters’ way. Cyrus’s mom has grounded Cyrus for having a party with pot and alcohol, and leaving their apartment trashed. Cyrus’s grandmother was supposed to play chaperone, but she ended up drinking with the teenagers and passing out. This does not stop the mother from later having her grandmother babysit her younger children. The mom herself acts like a teenager, preoccupied with relationships; she hooks up with her ex-husband while she’s also dating a cop.
No one onscreen, adults and teens included, behave in ways that resemble the way people act in real life. At one point, there is a case of mistaken identity, where Cyrus believes “the Popular Girl” slept with her love interest, the Emo-Looking Boy. When the Blonde clears the air, and tells her that neither the “Popular Girl” nor the Emo-Looking Boy were involved, but that it was in fact herself and The Boy with Glasses, Cyrus’s reaction is “I can’t believe you did this to me!” What exactly does Cyrus think her friend did to her? That she can’t believe it is itself unbelievable.
Cyrus then texts the Emo-Looking Boy for reconciliation, whose father has taken away his iPhone because of his poor grades. Cyrus takes this as the Silent Treatment. Then when the Emo-Looking Boy abruptly sits next to her on the plane to Paris, they immediately begin cuddling. I believe normal behavior entails, “Hey, why haven’t you been returning my texts?”
At last alone and unsupervised, Cyrus gives herself to the Emo-Looking Boy in a scene so lacking in steam and flesh, it makes the sex scenes in Breaking Dawn or The Lucky One look like pornography by comparison. Cyrus clearly still has her bra on before the scene cuts prematurely to her mother sleeping with the cop, itself not a steamy scene, featuring an actress who knows how to do sex scenes.
After the Paris trip, Cyrus’s mom discovers her journal, and the wrapper for the condom she used. When her mom finally meets the boy who deflowered her daughter, how does Moore act? Acting is reacting, as they say, and Moore reacts casually, which is to say, not at all. No awkwardness, no anger? Come on, give us something Demi.
Which brings us to Cyrus’s acting in LOL. I have called her Cyrus thus far, rather than by her character’s name. Like her character, she’s distanced from her father, and there’s evidence of marijuana use. There are so many similarities between Cyrus’s public image and her character’s persona that it’s difficult to read her performance as anything more than Cyrus simply playing as herself—and doing it badly—rather than creating a fictional character. When Cyrus believes the Emo-looking boy cheated on her, she throws herself upon her bed and weeps. Crocodiles have more convincing crying scenes.
Acting is reacting, but it’s also saying something by saying nothing, or in other words, conveying the subtext—letting the audience know what the character is thinking. But these are characters without a thought or belief in their heads. The teens in LOL are like today’s teenagers, afraid of being disconnected from their friends for a couple of hours at the theater, yet they have no real connection to one another. They have sex, but do not share intimacy; they never reveal their hopes, fears, and regrets to one another. The characters are too shallow to have anything resembling a genuine human emotion. “ur my girl,” as one teen texts to another, seems to me a poor declaration of love.
I sincerely hope that Cyrus does not believe this is an attempt to be taken seriously as an actress over her Disney TV fare, but that LOL is a nothing but a product, like the iPhones and iPods and Macs the star uses in almost every scene.