This modern take on the classic Hollywood musical is beautifully shot in a palette of primary colors. The dialogue is at times witty and fun, and the two leads are both very pretty. Enthusiasts of the RomCom genre will enjoy the conventional romantic narrative, which hits all the traditional beats of that style, with one rather pedestrian “twist” near the end.
That’s about all the positive commentary I have for this film. Personally, I am a big fan of the movie musical, from classics like Top Hat and Singin’ in the Rain, to the starry-eyed sincerity of The Sound of Music, to modern fare like Cabaret, The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Chicago. Unfortunately, La La Land does not measure up to films of this ilk.
That is not to say that La La Land is a terrible film. It’s not—it’s a perfectly fine, pretty piece of fluff that has been rhapsodized quite undeservedly (it’s tied with two other films for the most Oscar nominations of all time).
The two main characters (and there aren’t really any supporting characters—just props that our protagonists navigate around) have nothing much to recommend them aside from the fact that they’re on screen, and therefore you should empathize with them. The primary conflict in both cases seems to be that the world won’t simply hand them fame and success based on the obvious moral superiority of their artistic purity, and Stone’s character, particularly, seems to have no attributes whatsoever outside of “wanting to be an actress”. The film’s pacing is also strange, stalling in the middle for a series of uninteresting montages, before deigning to pick up the narrative once more.
Setting all that aside, however, the film’s primary crime is that it’s a musical that doesn’t seem to care much about the music. Ironically, it feels soulless, with bland, churned-out musical numbers, and stars that obviously have no connection to (or experience in) the genre.
To begin with, the two lead actors, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, very obviously cannot sing or dance, on a technical level.
And before you give me the “it was intentional” crap, why on earth would that be intentional? The movie is not going for raw, gritty realism by any stretch of the imagination. Every moment shrieks to the high heavens of old Hollywood glamour, glitter and polish, which means everything is unrealistically gorgeous, no one ever misses a snappy rejoinder, and all of your dreams come true if you just believe hard enough. Cracking voices that strain to hit the high notes don’t fit into this picture.
The opening number is drab and forgettable, and the bland “City of Stars”, which is rehashed several times throughout the film, falls utterly flat.
People didn’t love watching Gene Kelly or Fred and Ginger because they happened to be on screen, they enjoyed the impressive spectacle created by their incredible skill, built with years of training and passion. La La Land has none of this, and as a result feels empty and trivial.
Verdict: Just watch Sing Street instead.
Prediction: Hollywood loves to fellate itself, so I’m betting that of its eleven nominations, for Best Picture, Directing, Actress in a Leading Role, Actor in a Leading Role, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, two Original Songs, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Original Screenplay, it will undeservedly take Best Picture, Directing, Actress in a Leading Role, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Song (City of Stars), Original Score, Production Design, and Sound Mixing.