La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle.
Screenplay: Damien Chazelle.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, John Legend, Tom Everett Scott, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Josh Pence, Finn Wittrock, Keith Harris.

“I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired. Then I’ll hit back. It’s a classic rope-a-dope”

The Hollywood musical has all but become a thing of the past and a genre that few filmmakers attempt anymore. If I’m honest, it’s really no loss to me. Musicals are not something that I’m overly enthusiastic about. Growing up, I remember liking Grease and contemporary ones like Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and, especially, John Turturro’s Romance and Cigarettes were very enjoyable but, for the most part, I often overlook them. That said, with a record equaling 14 Oscar nominations and a record breaking 7 Golden Globe wins, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to the impressive Whiplash can not be scoffed at. 

Plot: Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress in Hollywood struggling to catch a break. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is in the same boat as he dreams of getting out of playing cocktails bars and becoming a serious jazz musician. Their paths cross and as their relationship blossoms, they are faced with either stardom or holding onto true love instead.

Song, dance, razzmatazz and Jazz are what’s on the menu with Chazelle’s latest. Whether you enjoy musicals or not will most likely play a huge part in your enjoyment of it, though. Technically, it’s wonderful and Chazelle has a real handle on his musical numbers and choreography. It’s also quite beautiful to behold. There’s no arguing with the style on show here as it’s quite a dazzling picture. However, there’s very little substance underneath it’s style. It suffers from a generic romantic plot and there’s a few too many musical ditties to cover up it’s glamorously dull narrative.

I actually think I might have enjoyed it more had it been tighter. For a start it’s way overlong and overstays it’s welcome by a good half hour. There isn’t enough material here to warrant its 2hrs 8mins running time. In fact, Chazelle really wrings the material out at the end. To paraphrase one of my six-year-old daughter’s more unusual quips: ‘He held onto this like he was strangling a baby’s neck‘. Don’t get me wrong, though, the end sequence cleverly brings things full circle and doesn’t succumb to formula but I got the distinct feeling that Chazelle never wanted it to finish. Like a rebuffed lover, he refused to let go. And who can blame him when he’s having so much fun? I, on the hand, had had enough by that point.

This being said, it is hard to be unkind to the film as there’s an obvious array of quality on display; David Wasco’s production design is a sumptuous palette of colour and Linus Sandgren’s cinematography captures it beautifully. It’s also got two delightful lead performances; Gosling showcases some genuinely impressive piano skills while Stone delivers a wide range of abilities and both of them display an adeptness at their song and dance routines.

Credit where it’s due, Chazelle has successfully brought the musical into the modern era with this, unashamedly, nostalgic piece. It’s a charming film but not one that excited or entertained me as much it has others. Those that enjoy romantic or musical films will find much more to embrace here and will, undoubtedly, rank it higher than I have. I can’t argue with that and I can’t say it’s a bad film. I appreciated it for what is but musicals in general don’t really have me singing from the rooftops.

Mark Walker

Trivia: Emma Watson turned down the role of Mia due to scheduling conflicts with Beauty and the Beast (2017), while Ryan Gosling turned down the role of the Beast in that film to appear in this one. Coincidentally, both are musicals.

40 Responses to “La La Land”

  1. We sing and dance all day long like this here in L.A., don’t ‘ya know. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ah good on ya for telling it like it is Mr. Sir. I was underwhelmed by the “chase your dreams” narrative. It was so much more compellingly interrogated in Chazelle’s previous film. And Whiplash had the added bonus of turning jazz music into a goddamn rock concert. That movie ruled. La La Land is good but I think Whiplash was brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’d agree, man. Whiplash was much more impressive and gripping. I could see the quality within La La Land and can appreciate why a lot of people have swooned over it but it wasn’t really for me. Decent but not great!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice review Mark. While I do agree that La La Land favored style over substance, I found it difficult not to enjoy the film. I’m not a musical fan by any stretch but La Land Land was just a pure joy to watch for myself (it may have helped that I saw the movie after returning from a trip to L.A.). Although I think Whiplash is the superior picture, La La Land shows that Chazelle is one of the best new talents working today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers man. It certainly does show that Chazelle has a lot of talent. I was actually very impressed with how the film was structured and shot but I got a bit bored half way through. Take half an hour off and I reckon I’d have been more engaged.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I first watched this. I think I had the same reaction as you. I really liked it, but didn’t fully love it.The musical numbers were not strong and I thought it was kind of long When I saw it a 2nd time, everything was a lot more enjoyable for me. I got into the characters and the songs more than I did before. I do agree with it’s nominations except for Best Original Screenplay. I do think it will win Best Picture

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’ll probably give it another chance Vern. Hopefully it works better but there’s no doubt that I felt it was overlong. I can also see why the Oscars have lavished support on it but, you’re spot on, the screenplay wasn’t very good. It shouldn’t have bee nominated for that at all.


  5. Excellent work as always! Still something I would like to see at some point – all you hear about is La La Land nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Zoë. A lot of people love this film. There’s no doubt I’m in the minority here. But put romance and musicals together and I automatically tune out. There’s plenty of impressive things going on but it bored me after a while.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mark, love the honesty. Chazelle is great in my book –I adored Whiplash and liked La La Land for the Jazz music. It’s a beautiful film but can’t touch West Side Story as best musical.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had to be honest, Cindy. Like I mention, it’s hard to be unkind to the film but I really didn’t catch on with the buzz surrounding it. I was a huge fan of Whiplash too and, despite not really liking musicals, I have seen much better than La La Land – West Side Story included.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I was a bit taken aback by how it all became like a Ryan Gosling indie pic there for a bit rather than a musical but I admire the ambition of it. Nice review and your daughter is a budding wordsmith.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For me the biggest problem was the lack of romance. Gosling and Stone had more of brother/sister chemistry for me than lovers kind. Also neither of the songs were catchy for me and I don’t know, maybe i’m just too cynical to empathy with artistic dreamers like that

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought the chemistry with them was ok but I see what where you’re coming from. The musical numbers never really grabbed me either but it was the length and how drawn out it was that irked me most.


  9. I love this one. It makes my heart sing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You and I are on exactly the same page…I wrote a post on how overrated this movie is. I just don’t get the hype. Yes, I appreciate it for what it is, but it’s not groundbreaking or anything… sigh …

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Now I liked this but Best Picture favourite? It’s a safe choice (I much prefer Moonlight – sorry). It’s a lovely film but there are better this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I enjoyed the balance in your review, you really put a lot of effort and thought into it. And it is refreshing reading this kind of review, when you get a nice feeling of fairness in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love La La Land! It is such a beautiful movie ❤️ This is such a fabulous blog post! I would absolutely love it if you checked out my blog xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not a hug fan of musicals in general but I could see where La La Land was headed and it dealt with things quite well.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be sure to return the favour. 🙂


Leave a Reply to ckckred Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: