There aren’t many greater things in life than enjoying a song and dance with your partner, in my opinion. When you’re both there, together, the external stimuli take us from the real world to somewhere different and special, and great musical films make you feel you’re escaping reality in just the same way.. while you’re sat on your arse.
Whiplash Director Damien Chazelle returns with a lot more StarpowerTM and a little less originality with the latest Hollywood Oscar winning so-called masterpiece that is La La Land. Opening into a freeway gridlock of traffic à la Falling Down, a girl in a yellow dress jumps out of her car and wails about her trip into the unknown; she’s taking her big shot at stardom. Suddenly another all-too-happy road-user ups and preaches the same sermon et voila now they’re all at it. Haphazardly twirling about and prancing on top of one another’s cars the people have started a celebration of the person who’s on their way to makin’ it in the Big City. Once the music stops and the incredibly ethnically diverse dance crew is back sat down and belted up, Mia (Emma Stone) gives fellow driver Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) the finger and later their Meet Cute is stuffed again when Sebastian blanks her after his performance in a local Jazz hole.
Despite their rocky beginnings, the persistence of aspiring actress Mia charms Seb at a local party and a beautiful romance is born. He loves Jazz music and she hates it; he knows she hates it because she doesn’t know it. Before Mia, lowly Seb was spitefully disobeying employers by deviating from their lame-o setlists and swapping in his own work, “I let life hit me, and hit me, and hit me and then I’ll hit it back when it gets tired” he says to his sister when she questions why he masochistically does what he does. Post-Mia, Seb is inspired to achieve greater things but when they both begin to taste success (re-using a theme from Whiplash Chazelle, alright) their relationship becomes a little less feasible.
The plot may be a little stale but it’s only there to move things along. The film is a lot of fun and without a doubt it’s a great (date?) movie. It’s definitely a musical but it’s definitely entry-level for the genre: Stone and Gosling have great chemistry but they aren’t the greatest singers or dancers meaning most musical numbers don’t reach louder than talking volume or jump higher than Gene Kelly’s lowest which leaves them far from memorable and the songs are all too similar thematically. I think it’s quite unfocused; sometimes I thought it was trying to make a point (similar to how there was a lot of discussion about the cost of greatness thanks to Whiplash) but then after the mid-point, with several scenes though one Super 8 one in particular, I was drowning in schmaltz.
All of that hatred said, I still enjoyed it. As I said, it was fun. There was chemistry, there were stand-out performances, a couple of cameos, an homage to Cleo From 5 to 7? I can’t knock something a little different making it mainstream either and Damien Chazelle continues to be a leading Director in musical films.
Cha, cha, shi-boop AH doo-wap se se six point five outta 10.