14 Oscar nomination. 144 other awards, and 200 nominations.
A Metascore of 93 (!) on IMDb.
Piles upon piles upon piles of enthusiastic critic reviews.
And yet I left the cinema disappointed.
All throughout this movie, I was sitting there, in my surprisingly comfy seat in Stratford’s Picturehouse, wondering what the hell went wrong with this movie. I was meant to love it, and yet I couldn’t wait for it to end. I, the lover of musicals, who’d seen the Polish Metro twice, the owner of the Cats soundtrack, the forever lover of Glee. Because I get that people who hate musicals, and can’t stand the characters just breaking into a song halfway through a scene, would absolutely hate this movie. That’s normal. But me?
Ok, first off – I didn’t actually hate it. But I was mighty underwhelmed and disappointed.
It started off great. A traffic jam coming into LA, people singing and dancing on cars. Classic musical. Happy, enthusiastic – I loved that.
And then it went downhill.
There are a number of issues in this movie, and I want to pause on each one of them.
Neither Ryan Gosling nor Emma Stone can sing
Yes, they’re Hollywood superstars. Yes, they’re both great actors. But also, yes, it’s a bloody musical. You shouldn’t have a couple of main characters who can’t sing. It’s not terrible to listen to, the way my singing would be, but it’s more of a decent student during a music lesson good, rather than musical good. On top of that, Ryan Gosling can’t dance, and Emma Stone only somewhat. Their lacks in singing and dancing can’t really be forgiven in a musical, I’m sorry.
Making it seem like it’s 60s, 20s, or whatever époque that isn’t in the 21st century
Emma Stone dresses as if it was 1960. Ryan seems to be going back in time even further. On one hand, this is rather charming, gives the movie a bit of a vintage feel, and quite a few opportunities for funny moments, such as breaking a very ‘old feeling’ scene with a phone ringing. On the other hand, though, it feels quite artificial and, well, random, I guess is the right word. Mia and Seb are two people living in 21st century LA. They have smartphones, laptops, Mia drives a damn Prius, yet they dress as if they got stuck in decades before they were even born. In Seb’s case it actually makes sense – his whole life is jazz, he dresses the part. For Mia, though, I’ve no clue why they dressed her like this. A lot of background characters are dressed this way, too.
I get you wanted to give it a distinct feel, but, dear filmmakers, there is nothing wrong with setting a movie properly in the decade it’s actually set in. I swear. Even if you’re inspired by old musicals.
Backgrounds characters don’t exist
It’s all Mia and Seb, really. I swear, I couldn’t remember any of the supporting characters once I left the cinema, except maybe the friend who invited Seb to play with him in a band. Which is rather sad. This is not a big flaw, more of a lost opportunity.
There really isn’t much of a plot
This movie tries so hard to be funny, pretty, all 60s, and whatever else, that somehow, somewhere, the plot got lost. It is one big cliche and there is very little progress made by the characters. Yes, they go through some motions. Yes, there are some things happening to them. But those things seem random, barely connected with each other. If it wasn’t for the final scene, I’d seriously have left wondering what on earth was that movie about.
It sounds like all I have is complaints. But, as I said, I didn’t really hate this movie. It was a nice enough Friday afternoon movie (and that’s when I watched it), to be seen when you’re tired after a week of working, studying, or whatever else occupies your weekdays. It has some good points that should definitely be mentioned.
This one song
See, La La Land isn’t even that good a musical, at least to me. There’s hardly a proper ear worm in sight. I usually leave a musical with at least one song absolutely stuck in my ear, humming it all the way home. This didn’t happen here, but there is one song that is worth mentioning, and that’s City of Stars, and that’s mostly for sentimental reasons.
The main characters’ acting
Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are brilliant actors. There are no doubts about that. They act with their words, their tone of voice, with their faces, whole bodies. Watching them is definitely a pleasure (thought mostly when they’re neither singing nor dancing), but I truly tip my hat for Emma in this movie. She really shows absolutely all she has. Since Mia, her character, is an aspiring actress, and goes to a lot of auditions for a wide variety of roles, we get a great glimpse into quite how broad Emma’s acting abilities are. So if you’re a fan of Emma Stone and want to see her give her all, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
The whole set is acting
I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I haven’t watched this great little video about visual comedy. But in La La Land, there is definitely a lot of it, and it’s very enjoyable to see that there was so much effort put into it. There aren’t many random objects in the land of the la la, because even coffee cups and vinyls are acting. So that was definitely impressive and quite funny.
Is La La Land a bad movie? Not really. Would I see it again? Not really, maybe as a background for doing something else. Do I recommend it? Not really, unless you’ve a really soft spot for either Emma or Ryan. To me, frankly, it’s too much form, too little substance. If they hadn’t decided to make it into a musical, upped the plot and dressed Emma into more modern clothes, it is very likely that I would have loved this movie. However, in the form I got it, it’s, sadly, mediocre.
Header image source: lalaland.movie