La La Land

Comedy , Drama , Musical , Romance Jan 20, 2017 No Comments

© 2016 Lionsgate Movies


Directed by Damien Chazelle | Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance | PG-13 | 2h 8m

Our Rating: $8.25

7 Golden Globe Awards. 8 Critics’ Choice Awards. 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards. The list goes on, but does LA LA LAND deserve it’s high praise and award show buzz? Not really.

I know, I know. Everyone loves this movie. Even the critics and they can be hard to please. While the film was enjoyable – and pleasantly lighthearted compared to recent films (see Manchester by the Sea) – it failed to meet my expectations.

At its heart, LA LA LAND is a love letter to Hollywood. Mia, an aspiring actress (Emma Stone), meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an aspiring jazz musician. You see the other side of the film industry: the auditions, the setbacks, and the hope that goes along with these competitive careers. For someone who grew up watching old movie musicals, I appreciated the throwback to classics like Singing in the Rain and Funny Face.

First, let’s talk about the actors. Who doesn’t love Ryan Gosling? He consistently performs well in his films, and LA LA LAND is no exception. The only problem is that he seems to play the same character: a jaded man whose main focus is himself until someone comes along to change his life. And while I’ve been told Gosling can sing, he didn’t prove it in this film. Is that his fault? Probably not. (You can’t expect to sing at a lower register if your voice isn’t meant to.) But for a “movie musical”, the singing left a lot to be desired.

Even Emma Stone, an actress with her own musical theater background, didn’t wow me with her singing until the end of the film when she belted out  “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. It gave me chills.

Singing aside, Stone made the movie. She stole scenes, in a good way, playing a part that fit her well. She added color to a potentially flat character. A particular favorite was the pool party where Mia requested “I Ran” while Sebastian grudgingly played in an 80’s cover band – the scene is pure gold. Her facial expressions alone make that scene great. (Side note: now we all know what song to request if we want to piss off a “serious musician”.)

Together, Stone and Gosling make a great team. But acting isn’t the only thing that can make or break a film.

I will be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about directing films. I have no clue why directors make the choices they make. (If anyone can explain to me why Damien Chazelle embraced the constant pan at the film’s start I’d appreciate it.)

LA LA LAND definitely had a slow start. Yes, the backstory needed to be established, but it’s not until the midpoint where Mia and Sebastian start interacting and their love story begins, that the storyline becomes captivating. The movie picked up with their first date, fully immersing you in their love story. While their relationship might not end the way you want it to, by the time the credits roll both Mia and Sebastian have achieved their dream, and all because of each other.

Had I not been exposed to the sudden, almost aggressively positive reviews for LA LA LAND, my opinion might have ended up more in line with the critics. But there’s been a lot of talk and I think people have gotten swept up by their own ambitions for the film. When you listen to the cast and crew talk, it’s like they made an impossible movie. I’m sure it is a challenge to take on a movie of this scope, especially a movie musical, but let’s be real: the movie musical has been done before. It wasn’t nearly as “brave” or “groundbreaking” as I was led to believe.

During the Golden Globe Awards, someone tweeted:

Followed by:

How did anyone think this movie wasn’t going to be successful? When I heard that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were going to be in a movie together, I was like yup, I’ll be there. I didn’t even know what it was about at that point!

We’re now six days away from the actual Oscar nominations. The question now is: can LA LA LAND continue the momentum? At the Golden Globes it took “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” (that category is an entirely different post), but at the Academy Awards, it won’t be separated from the dramas. With such great films to contend with, does LA LA LAND stand a chance? Will it break more records at the Oscars like it did at the Golden Globe Awards (7 total)? Or are we going to see it crash and burn?

To be continued! (Dun dun dun.)