Yet another review from the splendid SUFF – SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. Sadly the festival for 2015 is now finished but we still have a few reviews to get up. It ran from September 17th to 20th at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville and showcased some EPIC independent content. You can stalk them on Facebook HERE to stay in tune for when they release next year’s schedule.
WHAT LOLA WANTS is an edgy indie suspense film about a pair of star-crossed lovers from writer and director Rupert Glasson (COFFIN ROCK). The film has really slick production value and a superb supporting cast. It is filmed in soft muted colours that make it feel timeless. It is derivative of penny dreadful and pulp noir storytelling, with a simple but mysterious plot that romps along. It is smart, seductive, and compelling.
Opening scene: a woman has two young people in dog cages in the back of her big black van. Their hands are bound and they are crouched like animals. Switch to gorgeous water colour illustrations in the opening credits, giving us a visual background in a graphic-novel-style sequence of how a young girl becomes afraid of her famous actor parents and runs away. We are then transported to the beginning of the live-action story where a sixteen year old Lola (Australian actor Sophie Lowe, BEAUTIFUL KATE, ADORE, THE RETURNED) is a stowaway in a truck and slides into the pit-stop diner booth of handsome loner Marlow (Beau Knapp, THE GIFT, THE SIGNAL, RUN ALL NIGHT).
Lola is a coquettish ‘Lolita’ type with a devilish streak. Marlo is trying for James Dean and coming off as Nicholas Cage in RAISING ARIZONA, but it’s adorable. He is all clenched jaw and white singlet and hunch Neanderthal posture, and calls Lola ‘darlin’ with a gentle southern twang. Marlo is a “fingersmith” and Lola asks him to teach her the ways of thievery. They stand under a sign that reads “Beware of Pickpockets and Loose Women” near a bus stop.
This movie gave me great feelings of nostalgia for some of my favourite films. It had some of the plot points and similar imagery to great ‘couple on the run’ films like A LIFE LESS ORDINARY, EXCESS BAGGAGE, EARTHLY POSSESSIONS, and the classic THELMA & LOUISE. The cinematography is exquisite, capturing the hot dry wind of the Californian desert, and the score is atmospheric with glockenspiel and salsa and riffs from Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again”.
The scenes are essentially a bunch of clichés about lovers pinned back to back – her shaving him with a blade on a chair under a tree in the middle of nowhere, spazzy dancing near the pool, underwater kissing, slow-motion kissing, heavy breathing and super close talking, “I love you like a bad disease”, whispering under bed sheets, a two-person bicycle ride reminiscent of BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, woo-hooing out of car windows, kissing while driving – but it has a certain cool awareness to it. Clearly Tarantino is an influence with tense one-on-one face-off scenes between Marlo and a local cop (Charles S. Dutton, LONGMIRE, SECRET WINDOW, GOTHIKA) strike a gentleman’s agreement, and between the lovers and a scruffy gold prospector in a hangman’s noose (Australian actor Robert Taylor, LONGMIRE, FOCUS, COFFIN ROCK).
The stand-out performance is that of Dale Dickey (always cast as a meth addict, RAISING HOPE, BREAKING BAD, MY NAME IS EARL, WINTER’S BONE) who plays Mama, Marlo’s mother. Although he tells Lola “I can’t claim to be a reliable witness to my own birth”, he was raised by Mama. Between a Coen Bros-esque stolen duffle bag of cash, and a cash reward for Lola’s return, the situation gives Mama a chance to show her teeth – and her snatch – and her long-range rifle skills.
Lola claims her parents are vampires. Marlo interprets that as a euphemism for molestation. At time Lola seems like a spoilt brat causing drama, it is posited that her parents could be vampires or werewolves or perhaps her reluctance to go home is about some kind of domestic abuse. Marlo is on the run from Mama. His strained relationship with Mama gives him empathy for Lola and leads him to believe that whatever the facts of her story are they are not as important as her real fear.
Lola and Marlo are a couple of toothy hipster kids in an Instagram filter world. They look like Calvin Klein models, and their acting chops aren’t bad either. WHAT LOLA WANTS has all the odd dialogue of an episode of DEADWOOD, the mod stylings and mystery of STOKER, and all the meta charm of DEATHPROOF. It is a must-see.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her debut collection was SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted and stalked at @queenboxi.