As a new school year begins, Lola (Miley Cyrus) is left heartbroken by boyfriend Chad (George Finn) but surprised when a close friend, promising musician Kyle (Douglas Booth) reveals he has feelings for her. While Lola and her friends negotiate the emotional minefield that is teenage romance, her mother Anne (Demi Moore) worries she is growing increasingly disconnected from her daughter’s world of text-messaging, online video chats and Facebook contact. Anne also has romantic complications of her own, torn between maintaining secret liaisons with her ex-husband (Thomas Jane) and a burgeoning romance with a handsome cop named James (Jay Hernandez). Desperate for a window into Lola’s life Anne resorts to reading her diary, which predictably stirs up a huge row.
Writer-director Lisa Azuelos made her Hollywood debut with this remake of her 2008 French hit LOL (Laughing Out Loud) starring Sophie Marceau. It is an ambitious teen drama that strives after a well-meaning treatise on the generation gap between today’s techno-savvy teenagers and their increasingly bewildered, analogue-era parents. The film tells its story utilising the visual grammar of online chat-rooms, texting and video messaging that are depicted as both the blessing and curse of twenty-first century teen life, on the one hand providing an easier, more accessible outlet for personal feelings, on the other erecting a communication barrier between parents and children. Azuelos also shows how even in this age of super-fast digital downloads with instantly accessible information, it is all too easy for youngsters to misinterpret what they see. Lola constantly misunderstands and misjudges situations involving her peers and frankly, comes across rather foolish and self-obsessed. But then that is often the case with teenage girls still in the process of growing up. Azuelos does not judge her flawed but basically likeable teen protagonists and stresses parents should grow to accept kids that learn from their own mistakes.
Co-written by Azuelos and Kamir Ainuz, the screenplay exhibits a keen understanding of the teenage tendency to uphold an emotionally detached front whilst hurting on the inside and its depiction of the mother-daughter relationship with its rapid mood swings from love to hate and back again, certainly rings true. As a comedy-drama it is very French, leaning towards wry slice-of-life observation rather than laugh-out-loud moments, except for a bizarre third act school trip to France wherein Azuelos curiously draws her fellow countrymen as a wacky collection of oddballs with dingy homes and horrible food. With multiple plots on the boil the film spreads itself rather thin and its swamp of romantic misunderstandings may strain the patience of those less tolerant of such seemingly shallow, self-involved characters. Some of the sub-plots prove more engaging than others.
At first Demi Moore seems miscast as such an uncertain, insecure character quite the opposite of her familiar screen persona. She gradually involves us in her dilemmas as a single mother even though her own romantic problems are never adequately resolved. Meanwhile the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus acquits herself well in the lead. She still seems more proficient at comedy than drama and is eclipsed by her striking co-star Ashley Hinshaw, who plays Lola’s friend Emily. Her hapless romantic pursuit of a handsome schoolteacher (Austin Nichols) comes across as sweet rather than unseemly and results in some of the funnier moments. Adam G. Sevani, a regular in the Step Up franchise, appears as a dorky guy harbouring a not-all-that-hopeless crush on Emily while Twilight (2008) beauty Ashley Greene again displays her impressive range as the ostensible school slut whom Lola gradually grows to perceive beyond her provocative persona in a subtle, nicely observed bit of character development. For all the film’s attempt to come across as an authentic, uncompromising teen movie, it climaxes with the kind of ‘be yourself’ message and a big sing-along reconciliation you would find in any Disney movie.