Nicola Peltz Beckham’s movie Lola is labelled as poverty porn from the mind of a billionaire’s daughter

By Abby Amoakuh

Published Apr 18, 2024 at 12:39 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

What happens when Nicola Peltz Beckham, daughter of billionaire businessman Nelson Peltz and daughter-in-law to power couple David Beckham and Posh Spice, makes a movie about abstract poverty? According to The Guardian and The Independent, it’s worse than anything you could ever imagine.

You’ve gotta give it to Peltz. After starring in the white-washed war crime The Last Airbender in 2010 and squeezing out what was left from the Transformers franchise alongside Mark Wahlberg, her entry into prestige drama is refreshing and ambitious.

Lola premiered on 9 February 2024 with a limited theatrical and digital release. Moreover, Peltz does not only star in the movie, the actress also directed it and wrote the screenplay, effectively adding new skills to her resume.

And despite a solid 63 per cent rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, the movie didn’t exactly manage to make it into the hearts of critics or netizens. Instead, it received a brutal battering from both sides. Potentially for good reason.

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The movie follows 19-year-old Lola James, who is juggling two jobs in order to earn enough money to get her brother Arlo away from their abusive, alcoholic mother Mona. One of these jobs is at a drug store with her best friend Babina and the other one is at a strip club, where Lola works at night. Lola’s entire life is uprooted with one tragic night, when her mother’s boyfriend, Trick, rapes her after she comes to get her belongings. From thereon, nothing is the same again.

The Guardian described Lola as “poverty porn” from the mind of a billionaire’s daughter. The publication classified Peltz’s creative vision as someone who is desperately trying to imagine the struggles of the lower class but fails to appropriately capture them.

“Lola, whose protagonist careens from one traumatic experience to the next, doesn’t explore hardship—it exploits it,” writer Kady Ruth Ashcraft observes. The filmmaker and critic bemoaned that the actress “cosplays a disadvantaged darling, dressed up in despair drag, in a film whose message about hardship could be summed up as ‘pout your way out of poverty’.” Ouch, that stings.

It seems as though The Independent also had very few kind words to spare for the nepo baby’s directorial debut, publishing a summary which contained some of Lola’s most scathing reviews.

Andrew Burton’s review for Spectrum Culture was included in it and reads: “It’s not a law that directors making slice-of-life flicks must be personally familiar with the material they are depicting, but before even watching Lola, the disconnect between the dead-end world the film takes place in and Peltz Beckham’s background stands out as jarring.”

Some of the discomfort around the melodrama undoubtedly arises from Peltz’s privileged upbringing among Manhattan’s elite as the daughter of billionaire Nelson Peltz, who is worth an estimated $1.7 billion according to Forbes.

Lola is not the first movie that has been critiqued for featuring the struggles of the lower classes, despite originating in the mind of a privileged director. Emerald Fennell encountered a similar critique for her drama Saltburn.

Yet, it seems to be Lola’s ambitious yet out-of-touch attempt to capture these struggles for “artistic recognition” that is invoking the ire of critics.

It is easy to understand why Peltz embarked on this journey. According to a recent interview, the movie took her six years to make and this occurred during a time in which her career remained muted and was defined by supporting roles in movies and TV shows that were in no way critic favourites.

Lola is a strong-willed attempt to showcase her talent, prove her varied skillset and become an artist in her own right. However, it seems to be doing so at the expense of the titular character, who is consistently brutalised in a way that lacks aim and purpose. It fails to convey anything different than ‘being poor is hard but here I am.’

Lola is available to buy on Prime Video and Apple TV.

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