NB: This post isn’t actually about the Miley Cyrus film, it’s actually about films in general and how they forget about the Internet. Until now. Sort of.
Okay so it wasn’t exactly straight-to-DVD, but the Lionsgate website said it was only showing in ‘select theatres’ which translated to about 8 cinemas showing it last week, mainly at 11:40am in obscure parts of London with no advertising at all, except Miley’s casual engagement announcement. Unsurprisingly then, the cinema was half-empty and every single person in there was a Miley fangirl/boy, myself included. Which may prompt you to think that this review (it’s not really a review) will be incredibly biased. But I was so prepared for this film to be awful* and it just wasn’t. LOL is, without a doubt, the best teenage coming of age rom-com I’ve seen in a really, really long time.
Love the use of modern-technology-based acronyms IRL as I do, I agree that the title kind of sucks. Maybe that’s something to do with the fact that the movie is a remake of the French ‘LOL (Laughing Out Loud)’ and relates to cultural differences? Regardless, the title’s infiltration of the film itself is what’s confusing. It’s like they** couldn’t’ quite commit to it being totally a film about modern teenage interaction so they made the protagonist’s name Lola, shortened to ‘LOL’, just in case such bastardisation of the English language alienated any potential viewers. And I’m not sure what ‘they’ think LOL means because the acronym isn’t actually used contextually in the film, but Miley, sorry LOLa, does mention something about ‘lots of laughs’ at the beginning and then ‘lots of love’ at the end.***
But all of that pedantic etymology is actually just whatever. Because where they perhaps fall down in the minor area of modern technology-based linguistic tendencies, they completely rock at actually creating a really honest representation of teenage life. I’ve never seen a film that so wholeheartedly accepts the fact that teenagers do smoke weed and will use school trips to have sex and that sometimes girls kiss each other for photos without it being either too moralizing or completely cringeworthy. LOL doesn’t focus on those aspects of growing up, it just includes them in a way as natural as teenagers include them. Which basically means it’s really well done teenagers growing up film.
Capturing an accurate snapshot of a generation in a film has obviously been done before, and I’m not going to list examples because my movie knowledge kind of sucks. But I just wrote an entire dissertation on how modern fiction seems to be ignoring the crucial difference between the characters in The Breakfast Club and the characters in LOL: that we have this wonderful thing called social media that’s completely revolutionized our interaction. And LOL basically takes everything I said and makes the perfect rebuttal to my claims. I know obviously you’re going to buy the DVD as soon as it’s available so I won’t include any real spoilers, but I’ll give you a quick rundown on why this film made me literally cry with Internet-induced joy.
It’s basically all about Facebook. And not the Facebook you usually see in films or TV that pretends it’s not Facebook but clearly is Facebook. It’s actually Facebook. Facebook Chat windows casually pop up on the screen as we see the characters interacting on their MacBooks (kind of like in Sherlock but more awesome), and this is where the most essential relationship changes take place. Tragedy is legitimately reinvented through Facebook in this film as Miley’s love interest realizes that she’s ‘defriended’ him, and the inevitable make-up moment is all the more poignant as we see Miley and her beau become an official couple, with a simple ‘UR my girl’ met with ‘:)’ in a Facebook Chat conversation at the bottom of the screen.
I’m not saying it was perfect. Obviously I would have liked to see an on-MacBook-screen change of relationship status but I think that’s a bit passé IRL now so I can put such desires to the side. As a social media obsessive I disliked the use of the word ‘defriend’ rather than ‘unfriend’, the lack of last name in the bottom bar of the conversation and the fact that it was iChat and not Facebook Chat sounds used for the notifications. Furthermore, the inconsistent use of text talk in the Facebook Chat conversations was the biggest giveaway that this actually was teenagers being written by adults. But these shortcomings are pretty forgivable when you remember that up until now films about teenagers written by adults have only danced around the fact that social media is so ingrained in the existence of this generation just as much as they dance around the real sex and drugs of this generation. Great one LOL for incorporating both in a way that didn’t make me want to smash my own face in.
And it isn’t just the digital interactions between the younger characters in the film treated so effectively either. Twinned with Miley’s storyline is that of her mother, Demi Moore. In LOL, like in a lot of films, we see parents punishing their kids by taking away their technology, but the depiction of the importance of embracing it rather than being frightened lies closer to the centre of the plot. Even under the same roof, Miley and Demi send each other texts to stay in contact, and this adds a new depth to their relationship rather than representing any distance. Furthermore, their reconciliation after the inevitable fallout from Miley’s adolescent normality comes in the form of a Facebook Chat window opening from Demi to Miley at exactly the same time as we see Miley drafting an email. If that isn’t symbolic of the importance of understanding your child’s need to be ‘always on’ is a key part of modern parenting then I don’t know what is. And if that wasn’t obvious enough, Miley’s mum’s mum pops up a few times to foil the generational progression of motherhood, telling Demi that she was ‘just like that’ decades earlier.
I’m not sure if its casual mystic symbolism or just a continuity error, but there’s one point in the film where Miley slams her MacBook shut (mid-Facebook Chat flirtation!) as Demi walks into the room. For some reason as she holds the MacBook in front of her to talk to her mum it transforms in her hands into an IRL book. I’m going to wholeheartedly throw my weight behind the magical metaphor reading of this and proclaim this moment to be a powerful comment on the transformation of relationships in the Internet age. Therefore LOL is the film of the decade and absolutely should have been given more than a weekend to impact society on the big screen.
*Genuinely. I’d already made a list of reasons why Miley had even agreed to star in this and formulated the ‘I was chaperoning my 16 year old sister’ excuse and maybe wasn’t even going to tweet about being one of the probably 300 people in the country seeing it. I swear.
**I have no idea who I mean by ‘they’ here. Could be writers, directors, anyone.
***There’s a David Cameron/Rebekah Brooks joke here that I just can’t be bothered to make.