La La Land has my brain in a pretzel. I saw it Saturday afternoon and I’m still trying to piece together my thoughts. The one thing I’m sure about is that overall I didn’t like it. I caught myself looking around the theater and wondering when it was going to be over, which isn’t a great sign for the movie. But that’s not to say I didn’t love some parts because I did. I just feel like they relied too heavily on the “wow” factor of this being a genre of film that isn’t common in today’s world. It’s a throwback to the golden age of movies, and that’s ok. We need things like this to remind us that movies don’t have to be so rigidly structured around reality. It’s ok to represent a couple falling in love by having them suddenly floating and dancing among the stars. Why? Because it’s entertaining. It’s a more basic and visual approach to representing feelings on screen.
I don’t criticize the filmmakers for creating a musical, I actually applaud them for it. I do criticize them however for
pandering appealing to the entertainment industry and critics. This was a movie made by Hollywood for Hollywood to celebrate Hollywood. It’s tailor made to appeal to anyone who’s ever struggled at the start of their career in music or acting who sacrificed everything in order to succeed… pretty much everyone in the industry can relate to this, which is why it’s getting such high praise and receiving so many awards. Am I saying they made this movie with the sole intention of getting nominations? Not really… but it would make sense if they did.
It’s a movie that tries to appear as happy and uplifting while dealing in a subject that is actually very depressing and sobering (real life) while the end gives it all validation because that’s just how the world works. You can’t have it all, but you can get some great memories along the way. It’s a great foundation for a movie. My main criticism comes from the fact that this great story was told in a way that dragged unnecessarily and relied on lots of flash, big names, and nostalgia to carry it.
Spoilers- The opening scene was perfect. It was by far the greatest part of the movie. I thought this elaborate, single cut song and dance number in a traffic jamb would set the tone for the rest of the movie. This thing got me pumped up and excited for what was to come but unfortunately nothing that followed compared or even came close to matching the level of excitement I felt during those first 5 minutes. Not surprisingly the best parts of La La Land were the musical scenes. The songs were incredible and catchy, the dancing was good and fun to watch. I STILL have those City of Stars and Another Day of Sun songs stuck in my head. I wanted more. Big flashy numbers with a bunch of people dancing were what I wanted from this, instead of constant duets from the two leads.
Emma Stone was the clear winner coming out of this. She was amazing. I’m not sure how hard it is to be a successful actress playing a struggling actress (it’s probably not that hard now that I think about it) but she nailed it. Her character’s auditions forced her into rapid character change and swinging emotions for brief bursts at a time and through it all she was very convincing. What sealed it for me was when her character broke down into tears after her failed one-woman show that almost nobody attended, not even her boyfriend. It was one of those rare “holy shit she’s good” moments that hit me like a ton of bricks. On the flip side, despite winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor, I think Ryan Gosling proved that he is only able to play one character. It’s the same role over and over again with him. The young talented good looking guy who charms the ladies but has a chip on his shoulder and needs to prove how good he is. He really needs to mix it up.
I want to finish this blog up with the one thing that bothered me the most about La La Land… John Legend. WHY. Why did the filmmakers feel the need to satisfy John Legend’s need of being an attention whore. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he was Executive Producer. This guy and his wife somehow find their way onto every single red carpet imaginable. He’s a gifted musician, sure. He’s a good producer, sure. I wont even say he’s a bad actor because he’s not. But when I’m sitting in a theater watching a movie and suddenly I find myself at a John Legend concert, that crosses the line. At that point he hijacked the screen and took me completely out of the moment. The entire John Legend aspect to this movie was the reason for it’s downfall in my opinion. Why would Gosling’s character sacrifice his jazz musician ideals for a steady paycheck with a guy who screwed him before so he could financially support Emma Stone, only to let that paycheck take precedent over his supportive relationship and inevitably kill his future life with the woman he loves?!?! REALLY. I can’t convey my hatred for that concert scene enough.. It was so clear the purpose of it was to showcase John Legend and really represented the negative effect of personal agendas on a project like this. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for a concert scene so that Mia could see Seb playing and realize he wasn’t doing what he loved. I take issue with how the scene was shot, like a music video featuring John Legend which happened to catch the pianist occasionally. I was genuinely shocked by this. At one point towards the end of the movie the camera panned past a billboard and I thought to myself “I wonder if John Legend tried to put an ad for his new album up there..” and I really think the answer was yes but someone had the brains to deny him that satisfaction.
Overall it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t what I expected. I’m comfortable calling it a disappointment. The music was great but the story was told wrong and wasn’t able to retain my attention for the full 128 minutes.
Entertainment & critical rating- 70%
probably because of him and his character.