La La Land (PG-13)

Directed and written by Damien Chazelle, and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land is the story of two Los Angeles lovers who are destined to be… or are they? La La Land follows these two as their dreams come true while their relationship simultaneously unravels.

I believe that the less exposure one has had to movie musicals the more one may enjoy this film. Having grown up watching original musicals or movie musicals adapted from plays featuring quadruple threats who would act, sing, play an instrument and dance, and do them all extremely well, I am a hard sell on a musical.  Being raised watching Singing in the Rain, Stormy Weather, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,  and the like, forgive me if I’m not bowled over by leads who can carry a tune, and dance as well as anyone else with the ability to dance who has had a few lessons. Fred and Ginger, these two are not.

If you do not have the experience with movie musicals that I have had or see them as I do, you might think La La Land is something wonderful and new and fresh. It is not.  It has been done before, and it has been done better.  I felt frustrated and would have liked to see this movie performed by people with more training and talent in this arena.  I felt like any one of the girls in the supporting cast could have played the lead female role just as well as it was played by Stone.  Maybe even better.  I was wondering why the volume on the young lady in the opening scene was so low.  It’s so she doesn’t out-sing Stone.

I wanted to see more real dancing and less synchronized numbers made to mimic dancing. I wanted to hear somebody belt out a song; not whisper /sing-talk.  The movie is billed as a “musical” for heaven’s sake!  Bring the music!  (Aside from the Jazz numbers, I wasn’t really feeling it.) And the dancing and the fun!  Where was the fun?  Maybe I was hoping for some red hot revival of the movie musical genre but I got a tepid disappointment instead.  La La Land had the potential to be this soaring musical movie that is lofty and idyllic, and then – it is anchored by the delicate voice of Emma Stone.  And don’t get me wrong, Stone’s acting was on point, but the “musical” side was weak.

Gosling and Stone were not bad, but who wants to go to the movies to see a “not bad” performance? Ryan Gosling plays the piano in this movie very well.  Was I blown away by his performance?  Not blown away, but I was impressed.  He was good, better than expected even, and I’m proud of him for stretching himself for this role in that way.  Him playing the piano was one of the highlights of this experience.  He said he studied piano when he was younger a bit and practiced for three months for this role.  Also, he took dance lessons.  But this is what I don’t understand and what frustrates me so about this film!  This could have been a much better movie with all unknown talent; talent who already had the skills necessary to really take these roles and run with them.  Oh wait.  I do understand.  To go with unknowns would have meant finding someone to finance a movie musical featuring unknowns; a nearly impossible feat in La La Land.  But wait a minute… isn’t this Chazelle guy the same dude who wrote and directed Whiplash and wrote the screenplay for 10 Cloverfield Lane?  This is not his first movie.  Surely he could have found a way to make this movie with stronger talent.  What a pity.  And what a missed opportunity.

While the camera work and editing were great at times, there nothing new or original about featuring music in a movie with fantasy sequences, spontaneous group dance, soliloquy songs or flying through and dancing on air. Again, it has been done before and it has been done better.

Having said this, this movie is a nice departure from remakes and sequels and prequels and such, and it is nice to hear some original music. I didn’t say it was great music.  Just original.  The songs were “nice,” the story was “cute” (and actually beautifully told, by the way), some of the scenes were “lovely,” and you get to see some landmarks, but I just never got swept away to La La Land like I wanted to.

And another thing… One curse word? Why would there be one curse word in a movie?  Ever.  It didn’t fit in with the feeling this movie is trying to evoke, which if my guess is right, that it would be a sort of modern day, old Hollywood musical.  Why would anyone do that to a movie so unnecessarily?  The word wasn’t even used in a moment of anger.  So, why use it at all?

La La Land earned 6 out of 10 bloops. It was alright, but it could have been much better.  It just left me feeling empty.  I wanted to like it so badly.  I wanted to love it.  Instead, I was underwhelmed. I’m not sure whether my bar is set too high or Hollywood’s bar too low, but either way this movie did very little to move me.  I wanted it to.  It just didn’t happen for me this time.


1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

My Welcome Message

Oscar reviews:

Hidden Figures
Hell or High Water
Manchester by the Sea
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro

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