I was scrolling through the Facebook NewsFeed on July 4th when I saw this post from the HBO series Girls:
The comments on the post ranged from “Best show on TV right now” to “You’re not an adult if your parents still pay for your Blackberry.” There has been plenty of criticism about Girls from everything to race, class, and nepotism, but I find the show to be smart and funny. I’m also in my 20s and can relate to the growing pains of trying to figure stuff out.
Last week I went to see the movie Lola Verus written and directed by Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister Jones. Greta Gerwig stars as the eponymous twenty-nine year old Lola, who is dumped by her fiancé, Joel Kinnaman, and has to redefine herself in her newly single life. Lola and her friends Alice and Henry spend the movie figuring out – to quote the tagline of the film: “sex, love, themselves, and the world.” While I enjoyed parts of the movie (there’s a standout scene involved Ani DiFranco) I couldn’t help thinking about the similarity between Girls and its season finale which had only aired two weeks prior.
Both the TV show Girls and the film Lola Versus cover similar ground: a twentysomething female protagonist is shoved into the reality of New York City. Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham of Girls) by her parents cutting her off financially, and Lola (Greta Gerwig of Lola Versus) by her fiancé ending their engagement. The two female stars then embark on a journey of self-discovery that takes them to nightclubs in Brooklyn, regrettable drunken sex, and plenty of gaffes at social gatherings until they finalize realize near a body of water (Hannah on Coney Island Beach and Lola on the Hudson River) that they’re happy with themselves despite their flaws – and they’re going to make it after all.
Interestingly enough, the similarities between Girls and Lola Versus is made even more similar by their creators’ backgrounds. Both Lena Dunham and Zoe Lister Jones are the daughters of famous New York City artists, both are half Jewish, and both were raised in Brooklyn. I think their portrayal of New York trustafarians is accurate (as a kid raised in the suburbs however, I can’t speak from experience), but I think Girls contains the humor and lightheartedness that Lola Versus lacks. Both are arty, but Lola Versus revels in its artsiness, both TV show and film cover the same ground, but Girls seems fresh, while Lola Versus seems old hat.
If Lola Versus had been released before Girls would the film have seemed less like we’d already been there? Who knows. I haven’t seen Dunham’s debut film Tiny Furniture, but what I loved about Wein & Jones’ debut film Breaking Upwards was its simplicity and effortlessness. It seemed like an honest love story with characters who were privileged and artistic but also endearing and fun. We know that Wein & Jones can have fun too – have you seen their rap videos? But for now, at least – Dunham is the queen of the twentysomething angst and exuberance in New York.