Happy Birthday, Lola! (2001) / Thriller-Comedy
aka S Dnyom Rozhdeniya, Lola!

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but I'd give it a mild R for sexuality, brief nudity and violence
Running Time: 81 min.

Cast: Yekaterina Guseva, Vladimir Simonov, Sergei Astakhov
Director: Vladimir Shchegolkov

Screenplay: Ilya Krishtul, Vladimir Shchegolkov, Segei Zinovyev
Revuew published August 6, 2004

It's birthday time for Lola (Guseva), who is expecting a day full of many surprises -- but she never counted on this.  Two men deliver flowers and a birthday cake to her door, only to put her apartment under siege, as they set the apartment under siege in order to set up for an assassination attempt (presumably during a presidential motorcade).  While the men wait for their orders, Lola is a prisoner in her own house.  One of the men seems to take a liking to her, which she uses to her advantage in the hopes of finding a means to escape, but tensions escalate between the men, and the president may not be the only one killed if tempers boil over.

Writer-director Vladimir Shchegolkov attempts to make a hip thriller, very much in a stylish Hollywood tradition, but to middling results.  Likeable only because it is so odd, Happy Birthday, Lola! suffers from confusing motivations, nonsensical plot developments, and a lack of helpful expository information that would help understand just what is going on most of the time.  Or perhaps the fault is with me, as the strangeness of the film may be due to key facts being lost in translation.

The acting isn't stellar, but Yekaterina Guseva is so easy on the eyes, I'm certainly not going to blame anyone for casting her.  Although the plot is serious, there is a large comedic element that makes for a breezy good time, and the relative shortness of the running time makes this adequate as an interesting diversion from the standard thrillers that get churned out every year.  The direction is stylish, interspersed with comic strip elements that are probably used more to cut corners in budget than anything else, and there is good thematic foreshadowing and allusions in the writing.

Cutting right down to it, the only real appeal to Happy Birthday, Lola! comes from the fact that it is a Russian production, and of course, the allure of Guseva.  Outside of this, you've seen it all before, and probably much better, in domestic productions like Birthday Girl, Panic Room, and heck, even
Home Alone
.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo