Lola Versusis a charming and well-received comedy about a neurotic and flustered twentysomething woman living in New York whose life is turned upside-down when her gorgeous and perfect fiancée suddenly and unexpectedly dumps her mere weeks from the wedding. Lola, as played by the excellent Greta Gerwig, is a funny and resilient young woman whose good humor and sexual power manages to carry her through most of this trial, even though she manages to do some emotionally crippling things along the way. The film is essentially a comedy about the infamous quarter-life crisis that affects all people in their mid-twenties.
The co-writer and director of Lola Versus is Daryl Wein, a New York based twentysomething himself. Wein recently sat down with CraveOnline to discuss the notion of the quarter-life crisis, the difference between New York neurosis and L.A. neurosis, and, of course, his movie.
CraveOnline: Lola Versus takes place in New York. We’ve all seen numerous films about young people’s relationships in New York City. Would you say young New York neurotics are different from other neurotics?
Daryl Wein: [Laugh] I think the energy of the city lends itself to neuroticism. There’s the hustle and bustle, and the jam-packed nature of living in The Big Apple that, I think, contributes to that. Its hyper-frenetic attitude. Everyone’s kind of on their own track. And I think you see that exemplified mostly in Lola’s best friend Alice [played by co-writer Zoe Lister-Jones]. She’s that girl on the downtown New York dating scene who’s single, and kind of trying to get into a relationship, and she has this kind of ridiculous off-off-off-Broadway theater career. So, yeah.
Are you a New Yorker? How long have you lived there?
Hmm… Ten years? I went to NYU. So, I’ve been there. I grew up an hour outside of New York, so I was kind of “of the city” growing up.
I saw that you were born in L.A. …
Well, I go back and forth between L.A. and New York. I’m shooting a TV show there, and I actually have a place there. So we are officially bi-coastal. I would say there is more of a laidback attitude out there. More space to stretch out in. And there’s much more socializing, thinking about people’s homes in a way, that you don’t really do as much in New York. ‘Cause there’s just so many people, and it’s just such a clusterf*ck. People aren’t inviting you into their tiny apartments as much as they are inviting you to L.A. house parties. You go to house parties out in L.A. and obviously there’s a lot more to do in the city than out there. But they both have their pros and cons. It’s nice to be out there in L.A. when it’s freezing cold winter in New York.
Lola is 29, and is deathly afraid of turning 30. You’re about that age. Why is 30 so terrifying?
I think it’s a signifier of true adulthood. I think the perception of your 20s is that you can sort of flail about, you know, try different paths. By the time you hit 30, there’s a societal pressure to settle down and have a solid career, and maybe think about starting a family. And, if anything, that pressure is probably felt more strongly by women because they have a biological clock, and think they – more times than not – start thinking about mothering and settling down a little bit more. So that was important when we fashioned the screenplay for this. To have that age really be a part of the trajectory of Lola’s character. ‘Cause when you have the rug pulled out from under you at that time, it’s the worst time that can happen to you. Because there is that added intensity. That you’re getting old, and getting your life figured out.
Was this an anxiety of your personally?
Yeah, this was definitely an anxiety of mine personally, and also of [Zoe Lister Jones] my writing partner who just turned 30. And I think it’s pretty common among friends of mine, and all people transitioning out of “twentysomething” into real serious lives. All of a sudden you start seeing people getting married around you and people are starting to think about kids. And it’s like “Wow, I really need to think of a way to start earning some money!”
I’m curious: Since you’re slightly younger than Ms. Jones, did you ever lord that over her?
[Laughs] Uh… She likes to joke that she robbed the cradle when we first met.
No no. You robbed the grave.
[Laughs] I don’t really… It feels like we’re the same age. We’re only technically a little way’s apart. She’s only a year and three months older than me. But I like dating an – even though it’s only a year – an older woman.
I can relate. My wife is older than me.
Yeah. She brings that extra tiny bit of life experience and maturity to things, which is nice.
On Lola Versus, you and Ms. Jones are co-writers, but you’re the only credited director. Did Zoe do any co-directing on the set?
I wouldn’t call it “co-directing.” No, she didn’t do any directing. I was the only one doing any communicating with the actors. She is a very close creative partner of mine and a collaborative friend, and my most trusted partner. So there’d be plenty of times, since we wrote the script together, and she was acting in it, and she was also the executive producer, where I would turn to her and ask her advice on what she thought. And she helped instrumentally throughout the process. When I would feel frustrated or confused – even during the editing process which she was very involved in; giving notes on the cuts and helping choose all the music and a lot of the creative elements.
How much of Lola Versus was based on people you know? Both Lola and her cad boyfriend Luke seemed like they came out of real experiences.
They’re not based literally on anyone we know. The idea was that Lola was a woman who was 29-turning-30, gets broken up with, was definitely we had seen a lot of in the women who are in our lives, that we’re friends with. You know there’s kind of an epidemic of women at my work who are trying to find the right guy, and negotiate that with their own professional lives. It seems that there are all these awesome women out there that just can’t catch a break. At the time, a few years ago, it felt really appropriate to tell a story with a strong unapologetic woman at the forefront of a relationship movie that really focused on her trials and tribulations of the dating world. We definitely pulled on, I think, experiences that we had kind of felt second-hand in New York. Observed around us. And Zoe, when she was single, she had a lot of her own personal experience to draw on when dating weird guys. And what that emotionally felt like. ‘Cause we were in an open relationship for a year and she was dating other guys. So that was kind of the initial inspiration for the movie. Kind of a year of traumatizing sexual escapades for Zoe. That was a title we joked about for a while.
Dish. Can you tell us a story?
[Laughs] I think you’d have to ask her. I don’t think she’d want to talk about it, though. I can say this: the stories in the movie, in the script, are all fictionalized.
I figured. It was kind of a coup that Greta Gerwig played Lola. A lot of the film hinged on her performance. How did she come aboard?
We were looking for a New York actress. Someone authentic and natural to the world we had written. We had kind of grown up in the indie world, and Greta… we had seen her at a lot of film festivals, seen a bunch of her more indie films. And she seemed like she had a really interesting quality that was different from the more polished “performative” female ingénues you usually see in relationship movies. We thought it was important to show this kind of different side to the character that was maybe a little bit more understated. So that’s how she became involved.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
Oh God. Uh… that was a long time ago. I don’t really remember. I was like 12 at the time, back in Westport Connecticut. What was I listening to? For some reason Boyz II Men is coming to mind. I’ll go with that. It may not have been the first, but it was definitely among the first of the albums I listened to. They’re kind of the role models of my life. [laugh]
You said that during an interview. You realize I can quote you on that now.
[Laughs] Boyz II Men. What better name for a band? Every man is kind of a boy. 29-into-30, it’s a question to ask. Are men going to forever be man-children, or are they gonna transition into adults?
Do you feel that’s a mark of this generation? That men tend to want to be man-children and not grow up?
Yes absolutely. I definitely think there’s a troubling trend among young men.