Only connect. -- E.M Forster
The phone's off the hook, but you're not. -- X
In Joe Swanberg's LOL, three men -- Alex, an aspiring musician (Kevin Brewersdorf), Chris, a student trying to sustain a long-distance relationship (C. Mason Wells) and Tim, a slightly smug young man in a seemingly-stable relationship (director Swanberg) -- can't quite connect with other people. They've got the tools -- cellphones, e-mail, video -- but they don't seem to have the temperament. Or maybe the tools are the problem -- they've got so many open channels in their life that all they can hear is the hum of the wires, so many sources of distraction they're waiting for what's next instead of looking at what's now.
Articles have been written -- and will, somewhat regrettably, continue to be written -- about how Swanberg, along with similar writer-directors like Andrew Bujalski , Aaron Katz and Jay Duplass, constitute a new movement called 'mumblecore.' This nomenclature suggests an enthusiasm for categorization more hearty than well-thought-out; if Swanberg, Bujalski, Katz and Duplass are a movement, then you and your close friends are a political party. These film makers have affinities, similarities, personal friendships and professional connections; at the same time, if you asked the 'mumblecore' film makers to articulate a Dogme 95-style manifesto, you'd probably be waiting a while for your answer.
With that aside -- and looking at LOL in and of itself -- the good news is that the new DVD release is a strong and well-crafted disc of a strong and well-crafted film. LOL is fragmentary -- overheard phone conversations, snippets of video, voice mail messages, instant message sessions between two people in the same room -- and you get that Swanberg's suggesting the same about modern life. The technique in LOL is mildly distancing at the start; as the film progresses, you understand that Swanberg's making a mosaic out of brittle pieces, and you see the big picture as you step back. It's not an a-to-b-to-c narrative; neither is life.