‘Lolo’
Director:
Julie Delpy
Stars: Julie Delpy, Dany Boon
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

Julie Delpy doesn’t do cute. The actress and now frequent filmmaker started her career in difficult ’80s Godard movies like “Detective” and “King Lear,” and tore through “Before Sunrise,” where her character was vocally adamant about not being some French girl that a greasy-haired American abroad can bang and go home. That seemed to be her beef, too. Delpy has always stood just outside the French industry and its barrage of austere or light exports, preferring to work on both sides of the Atlantic. When she began directing, she was drawn to slightly eccentric projects, like anxious comedies (“2 Days in Paris” and its New York-based sequel) and a film about blood-bather Elizabeth Bathory (“The Countess”).

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“Lolo” can therefore be disarming. For one thing it puts Delpy in a number that, at least initially, seems like a routine bouncy, slick French relationship comedy. For another, she directed and co-wrote it as well. It even co-stars Dany Boon, one of France’s biggest stars, whose comedy stylings are so specifically Gallic that his film, “Welcome to the Sticks,” was never released Stateside, despite being the nation’s highest ever grossing homegrown hit. Delpy plays Violette, a fashion event planner who, while vacationing in southern getaway spot Biarritz with her friends and fellow sweary grouches, meets Boon’s Jean-Rene. A financial software engineer, he’s what she calls a “Biarritz bumpkin,” who wears socks with sandals and is generally the exact opposite of Delpy’s jet-setting Parisian. Soon they’re making out.

Loud and brassy, fond of broad yuks and “Sex and the City”-style banter, “Lolo” seems cute — until Violette returns home. Once there, this farce takes a turn that could be fizzy but is instead dark and messed-up. Turns out that the “cute boy” Violette thought she had is actually Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), an older teenager with an aversion to his mother’s boyfriends. Jean-Rene, who takes a job in Paris to be with his out-of-his-league new flame, particularly rankles Jean-Rene, who hatches a series of schemes to sabotage their relationship. 

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“Lolo” still remains fizzy and chipper, nothing like Delpy’s down-and-dirty “2 Days” movies, where the handheld added to the unease. It has the air of a light, camera-on-tripod comedy, and many of Lolo's ploys are big, involving things like drugging Jean-Rene’s drinks at a party whose guests include Karl Lagerfeld (as himself).

But “Lolo” clearly aims to subvert the vanilla veneer of the nice French comedy. Its neuroses are real and prickly, and Lacoste gives Lolo an enjoyably venal and patrician air. He carries himself like a bored aristo, mucking with a member of the lower class for even thinking he could invade his space. As his target, Boon gradually slides from understatement to, by the end, full-tilt boogie exasperation. It’s here that “Lolo” once again feels like the nation’s typically broad fare, but even at its shrillest, Delpy always keeps it grounded in real nervousness and even anger. It only looks cute, but “Lolo” has claws.

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