What director Joe Swanberg’s LOL lacks in ambition it makes up for in nuance. The film has the quality of something tended to by many affectionate hands, a houseplant that blooms slightly more than it sags. The story—or what little of a story there is—revolves around three twentysomething males and their fanatical, sometimes funny-ha-ha connection to technology. They always need to be online or on the phone—checking email, gawking at love interests stripping on the web, snapping pictures, or calming frustrated flames—and this compulsion wrecks their human relationships. Their absurd dependency to the machine reaches some kind of apotheosis of lameness when Alex (Kevin Bewersdorf), a struggling musician, is unable to find an A/C cable in order to connect to the Internet at a girl’s house, a dilemma that forces him to call a friend, Tim (Swanberg), so he’ll log on to his email account for him. If this sounds at all familiar to anyone, the film may resonate, and though the story’s vignettes pound the same note repeatedly, the director maintains our interest by gluing them together with multi-planed video snapshots of other iPeople looking into cameras and making strange noises. By incorporating their unique voices into the film’s fold, Swanberg rewrites do-it-yourself as do-it-for-us, deepening the scope of the film’s otherwise basic message about the emotional harm our addiction to technology perpetuates. It’s how a little film thinks bigger.
In terms of packaging and extras, LOL is treated as if it were Citizen Kane by newbie distributor Benten Films. The DVD cover art is spectacularly evocative of the film's theme of interpersonal disconnection impacted by technological obsession, though the stunning design is a wee bit at odds with the DIY look of the film. LOL won't win any cinematography prizes, but the image is clean and artifact-free, and the sound is good in spite of the occasional hot spots.
Director Joe Swanberg and co-writers Kevin Bewersdorf and C. Mason Wells keep things technical on the first of two commentary tracks, coolly shooting the shit about the particulars of filming on DV, their fear of getting busted by Homeland Security while executing the movie's airport scene, and-holy, Laura Mulvey!-the male gaze. Greta Gerwig and Tipper Newton join the trio on a second track that's equally as rich, with the focus this time on the film's themes, the actors taking direction, what was improvised and what was staged, and the meanness of the characters. Other goodies include the Hissy Fit short by Swanberg that started it all, Bewersdorf's video podcasts from Germany while making the film's music, complete "Noisehead" videos, some additional music performance footage, a cute casting interview with Newton (she reveals that she's not really an outdoor person and isn't big on online dating, though she thinks it's nice when it leads to people getting married), a slideshow of the artwork Bewersdorf drew in Germany while rendering the film's score on his computer, and an essay by GreenCine guru David Hudson.
A cool DIY commentary about our obsession with technology, given a very considerate DVD treatment by the boys at Benten Films.