La La Land Review
“La La Land” is the movie that Damien Chazelle has wanted to make for a while. Unfortunately, you can’t be a new director in Hollywood and get given loads of money to make an extravagant musical without proving yourself. His solution? Make one of the best films of 2014 in “Whiplash,” a film that would go on to win awards at the Sundance Film Festival and receive a plethora of Oscar nominations.
With such high praise underneath his belt, he was given free-lance to go big and strive high with “La La Land.” And he did just that. “La La Land” pays homage to the magical Hollywood musicals of years gone by, but with more style and an increased sense of extravagant atmosphere. The production design is beautiful and well crafted with the assured directorial hand of Chazelle.
While I had some premonitions about Emma Stone being cast as one of the main roles, she continues to build on the talent she displayed in “Birdman” and gives a very strong performance filled with diverse subtle emotions. And her singing voice is better than what I expected. While I don’t agree that she was the best female acting performance of the year, she will probably will the Oscar and I won’t have a lot of issues with it.
I’m not normally a big fan of musicals, but when I initially saw this film, I rather enjoyed it and thought it was a well-made film even if it wasn’t my favorite from that year. After seeing it a second and third time, though, I’ve developed more issues with the film.
Firstly, I think Ryan Gosling was the completely wrong actor to cast in this role. I have nothing against Gosling as an actor and enjoy his performances in films like “Drive,” “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.” While he isn’t appalling in this film, he does nothing to help the movie and there are a plethora of other actors that would have given better performances. I think it’s laughable that he was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars this year.
The second major problem I have with the movie is the script. The screenplay really isn’t anything special and some of the dialogue is obnoxious at times. Also the story doesn’t have a direction or sense of purpose until the final twenty minutes of the film, but that is too late for a feature length film to have a sense of significant purpose. It seems that they focused too much on the production than the actual writing, which is the opposite of how Chazelle was in “Whiplash.”
All in all I think “La La Land” is a beautiful film to look at and is really well directed. It does a good job of respecting the musicals of the last century and will appease musical fans everywhere. It manages to bring back a sense of magic that is lost in modern Hollywood films and I will always respect that. It will win many Oscars because it is Hollywood’s love child and the Academy will try their best to give it as many awards as possible.
But I personally don’t love the film. I think it’s good but I won’t rave about it and think “Arrival,” “Hell or High Water,” “Manchester by the Sea,” and most importantly, “Moonlight” are much better films. Definitely worth the watch if you are a film fan or like musicals, but I will be disappointed when it inevitably wins the Oscar for Best Picture this year.
La La Land (2016): 3/4 stars