There isn’t anything particularly romantic about “Lolo,” the latest from actress/writer/director Julie Delpy that concerns the relationship that blooms between a big city designer named Violette (Delpy), and a computer programmer from the sticks named Jean Rene (Dany Boon), but that isn’t to say she doesn’t fall head over for heels for something. In making an unabashedly commercial comedy, the kind that rarely are made anymore in the U.S., but still pack in crowds in France, Delpy embraces the form of a big, broad concept to sneak in some more serious ideas, but after often putting those ideas first even in her more raucous “2 Days” adventures in Paris and New York, she seems content to take a premise that has been done dozens of times before and pushes it further and often funnier than its predecessors.
Intriguingly, Delpy writes herself the most thankless part in “Lolo,” albeit one with more dimension than is usually afforded in such films, as Violette, a divorcee vacationing in Biarritz with her friend (Karin Viard). Lamenting that she has no time for anything but her work and her son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), and notably not suggesting there’s much wrong with that, she finds herself unexpectedly charmed by Jean-Rene, a local that’s her total opposite in every way, whether it’s his decidedly passe fashion sense or his affectionate nature. What was supposed to be a fling soon spills over to her regular life in Paris where Jean-Rene relocates, much to the chagrin of Lolo, who is revealed to be far older than his mother’s description would lead one to believe and is completely unwilling to leave home with her fashion connections providing him with a steady diet of parties to attend and models to sleep with. With the threat of Jean-Rene possibly moving in for good, Lolo seeks out increasingly perverse ways to sabotage their burgeoning romance.
Casting Boon as her paramour, Delpy assures that “Lolo” will have its share of slapstick comedy, something that she’s only flirted with before, taking full advantage of the actor’s physicality as the son peppers itching powder on Jean-Rene’s clothes in advance of an important event or drugs him at a party where Violette is focused on impressing potential clients such as Karl Lagerfeld. But Delpy’s casting of Boon is clever for another reason, using the world-weariness he often displays in relief of the major set-pieces in the comedies he directs himself as one of his defining characteristics to speak plainly to a need for companionship in middle age that most films tend to ignore. (One of the film’s most poignant moments comes when Lolo asks his mother what she could possibly see in a future with Jean-Rene , and in resignation, she responds, “We get on…if not, we’ll have a kid.”)
The topical jokes that include targets such as Michael Douglas and “The Intouchables” seem to acknowledge that Delpy is aware she’s making something that isn’t meant to stand the test of time – and with plotting that becomes repetitive as Lolo escalates his pranks on Jean-Rene without any real growth elsewhere, “Lolo” threatens to wear out its welcome within its own running time. However, this is likely Delpy’s most confident film yet, projecting a slick, professional sheen on the surface without sacrificing her barbed view of the world and the all-too-human capacity for selfishness. Considering how her characters will often carry an impervious facade while privately fretting, “Lolo” may be the most ideal vehicle for her specific voice to date.
“Lolo” does not yet have U.S. distribution. It will play the Toronto Film Festival twice more on September 19th at 12:30 pm at the Isabel Bader Theater and September 20th at the Scotiabank 2 at 9:15 am.