Zoe Lister-Jones refuses to romanticize
Zoe Lister-Jones loves romantic comedies. Anything with Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan will do.
But when it came time to make a movie with her boyfriend and movie-making partner Daryl Wein, the 29-year-old actress and screenwriter strayed from the classic rom-com formula followed by her favorites.
“The commercialized version of the rom-com is valid and really fun, but I think we were looking to subvert that formula,” Lister-Jones says, sitting at the dining room table in her Fort Greene, Brooklyn apartment.
“Ultimately, it’s a more empowering and subversive tale if a woman’s main priority is not to find herself in a man.”
Such is the thesis of “Lola Versus” (out Friday), directed by Wein and written by Lister-Jones, who also stars as the title character’s quirky best friend.
Unlike a traditional romantic comedy, where girl meets boy, they fall in love, they fight and then overcome conflict, “Lola Versus” begins with the main character, played by indie queen Greta Gerwig, getting dumped just weeks before her wedding.
The rest of the movie is not about Lola finding love, but finding out how to live without it.
“In most movies there is a Prince Charming who rides up and saves the girl,” Lister-Jones says. “We wanted our viewers to be rooting for the girl to end up alone. It’s more authentic to the human experience. Nobody’s life is wrapped up neatly in a bow.”
Indeed, it was Lister-Jones’ own experiences during a year that she and Wein experimented with an open relationship that inspired “Lola Versus.”
“With [our first film\] ‘Breaking Upwards,’ it was so personal,” she says. “It was loosely based on an open relationship we were in, so that was a much more in-depth writing process emotionally, because we had to hash out a lot with each other.
“So while the inspiration [for “Lola”] was my experience during that year of our open relationship, it was totally fictionalized so we could have fun with it.”
Born in Park Slope, she attended NYU before becoming a musician and actress, with a career that includes a role alongside Angelina Jolie in “Salt.”
These days, she prefers working closer to home — and keeping it real.
“We wanted to highlight areas in New York that haven’t been overexposed like Vinegar Hill, Dumbo and Avenue D in the East Village,” says Lister-Jones. “I think we were the first film to shoot on the High Line and at the smoked-fish shop Russ & Daughters, which has been around for almost 100 years.”
Even the characters in “Lola Versus” were meant to be authentic as they struggled in their romantic pursuits. After breaking up with her fiancé, Lola goes through a string of relationships, each one worse than the last.
According to Lister-Jones, it’s a predicament many single women living in New York will understand.
“When we wrote this, there was this epidemic of female friends who were really cool and smart and funny and normal and single,” she says. “To make a generalization, guys in their 20s find validation through sleeping with really hot women, whereas women find validation by being in meaningful relationships. This is the New York that we wanted to capture.”