Almost five years after premiering as the opening-night selection of the 2009 Zurich Film Festival, Alain Gsponer’s Lila Lila is at last receiving theatrical exposure in the U.S. Judging by the mild but hardly noteworthy competence of the film itself, this development seems largely attributable to the fast-rising stock of German star Daniel Brühl, who has made a stateside splash in Inglourious Basterds, The Fifth Estate, and Ron Howard’s Rush.
Adapted from a best-seller by Swiss author Martin Suter, Lila, Lila concerns David Kern (Brühl), a lonely waiter who concocts an enormous lie in order to woo the object of his affection, Marie (Hannah Herzsprung). After purchasing a night stand at a flea market, David finds a manuscript in the top drawer, which he proceeds to read, admire, and, eventually, pass off to Marie as his own work. She convinces him to get it published, and the book becomes a massive hit; before a reading at Berlin’s Volksbühne, a moderator describes it as “the Anna Karenina for the Internet generation.”
The appealing performances from Brühl and Herzsprung, as well as the film’s surprisingly clean sense of composition — it was shot on 35mm by Gsponer’s regular cinematographer, Matthias Fleischer — keep Lila, Lila moving. But it ultimately suffers from poor characterization: When an older man (Henry Hübchen) shows up claiming to be the book’s original writer, he is defined entirely by reclusive-author stereotypes (a heavy drinking regimen chief among them). Nor is it believable that Marie, a savvy literary student, would ever allow herself to say something like, “I’m just a naïve little girl who wants the whole world to be like a novel.”