A 19-year-old son believes he should be the only man in the life of his overprotective mother in Lolo, a high-concept comedy that’s French actress-director Julie Delpy’s most winningly mainstream concoction yet. Delpy herself stars as the uber-Parisian, hypochondriac mother, with French comedy heavyweight Dany Boon playing the provincial IT specialist who seems to have what it takes to be the new man in her life.
Meanwhile, rubber-faced rising star Vincent Lacoste is her insidious offspring, who will go to any length to make sure he remains momma’s only love. Lolo has a solid laughs-per-minute rate and enough twists to overcome the occasional screenplay hiccup. Thanks to her collaboration with Richard Linklater on the Before films and bilingual directorial outings such as 2 Days in New York, Delpy — give or take a Luc Besson — has always been one of the most American of French filmmakers. And this U.S.-style crowdpleaser could very well become her biggest hit at home, with solid chances offshore in all places where French comedies are appreciated.
“I’m not very objective, but my son represents the future of mankind,” explains Violette (Delpy) to her new beau, Jean-Rene (Boon). Given that Violette refers to Eloi (Lacoste) either by his nickname, Lolo, or as “my little boy,” Jean-Rene is led to believe she’s the mother of a boy barely out of diapers. But nothing could be further from the truth, as Lolo is almost 20. But in a neat twist, costume designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud has him almost constantly walking around in colorful briefs as if he were still a child — though clearly one that owns the place.
A busy producer of fashion events in Paris, Violette hasn’t been in a serious relationship since Lolo’s father left. But what started as a dare with Violette’s cheerfully vulgar best friend and fellow unattached forty-something, Ariane (Karin Viard), has has led Violette to fall in love with Jean-Rene, a somewhat folksy but lovable computer programmer from the classy Basque seaside town of Biarritz. (It is one of the film’s many chuckle-inducing insights that for a true Parisian such as Violette, anything outside of Paris is automatically provincial.)
For those familiar with Delpy’s lighter directorial efforts, such the sprawling family tale Skylab (which saw the multihyphenate’s first collaboration with both Lacoste and Viard) and the slightly more compact New York and Paris versions of her 2 Days series, the occasionally hilarious and sometimes sexually frank dialogue will be familiar, as will her undeniable talent to take seemingly normal situations and almost imperceptibly morph them into something comically grotesque that nonetheless remains recognizable.
What’s different is that, for once, this talent is not just applied to a meandering story about love, sex and relationships but to a story with a strong narrative conceit at its center, which here involves a son who refuses to let his mother date anyone — though, in proper comedy fashion, she’s unaware this is the case for most of the film’s running time.
This gives the entire film a stronger backbone and channels Delpy’s usual eye for character development and relationships into a setup with more classical foundations (with an introduction, development, discovery and resolution), which reinforces not only the story but, interestingly, also the characters, since their needs and desires are more clearly legible at every stage.
Delpy has written herself another unglamorous, warts-and-all and oh-so recognizable role as a woman struggling to keep it together while trying to balance motherhood, a career and a new romance. Her neurotic and hypochondriac sides ring true and are good for plenty of laughs, especially when Violette stresses out and starts behaving in extreme ways, such as in leaving a barrage of increasingly insecure text messages (enumerated on-screen) when Jean-Rene doesn’t answer the phone after she’s unintentionally stood him up. Suffice to say it doesn’t even end with: “You must be dead now, right?”
Directed by: Julie Delpy
Starring: Julie Delpy, Dany Boon, Vincent Lacoste, Karin Viard, Antoine Lounguine, Christophe Vandevelde, Elise Larnicol
Screenplay by: Julie Delpy, Eugénie Grandval
Production Design by: Emmanuelle Duplay
Cinematography by: Thierry Arbogast
Film Editing by: Virginie Bruant
Costume Design by: Pierre-Yves Gayraud
Set Decoration by: Hélène Rey
Music by: Mathieu Lamboley
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Mars Distribution
Release Date: March 11, 2016
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