LA LA LAND
(directed by Damien Chazelle, 2016)
*** (out of 5)
> Oh no! I struggled to give this celebrated void of a film 3 stars. I think that’s pushing it a bit. In the end I figured- I was entertained throughout, and that is after all, the most basic requirement for any film. But the fact that it was entertaining is the only reason I could recommend this film to anyone.
. This retro/modern musical romance is like a Cheeto. It is colorful but has no nutrition whatsoever. It’s crunchy, but unsatisfying. And the longer you gorge on it, the hungrier you get because although it’s large in every way, it’s mostly inflated air- a celebration of nothingness. Critical darling? Record-tying Oscar recognition? Wha’? I dunno think so.
. Look, I’m a guy who loves movie musicals- considerably more than the average fellow. And I’m a romantic too. I like good romances. Though the radiant Emma Stone and the poised, G.Q. Ryan Gosling make a very appealing pair, as with everything else in this vapid movie, between them there is no “there” there. The Best original Screenplay nominated (???) script doesn’t even pretend to get more than a single layer beneath the lover’s skins- a big problem, because there are almost virtually no secondary characters- it’s basically a two actor film. The tunes are fine, inoffensive, they fill their space… but do audiences leave the theatre humming a tune, as in the glory days of the American musical? Surely you jest.
. LA LA LAND attempts to harken back to the golden age of musicals with the glitzy production design, the style and glamour and dancing-on-air fantasy, the showbiz angle of two performers trying to make it against all the odds in Hollywood, but it tries to impose a grown-up ending that seems at odds with the rest of the film. Poor Ryan Gosling is getting a good amount of whispers behind the hand criticizing his singing and dancing. Agreed, the guy can’t sing- but he pulled it off. And while not a natural Gene Kelly-Fred Astaire dancer, he makes do- somewhat stiffly. Apart from the plentiful eye candy, (costuming, production design, cinematography- all nominated), the best reason to see this film is the central presence of doe-eyed goddess Emma Stone, who has the most alive face of any actress of her generation I think, making her never less than a delight to drink in. Director Damien Chazelle‘s last film was the mighty WHIPLASH, also a musical of sorts- or at any rate, another (much more serious) film about music- and in nearly every way a much, much better film. (Comparing the efforts is like comparing 50 Shades of Gray to War and Peace.)
. If this is the cream of the crop, 2016 must have been a pretty dismal year at the movies! Despite all my bitching and griping, I am glad to see someone attempting to breathe life into the musical. (It’s been a long time since HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.) But if this wins Best Picture it will clearly be the worst picture to win since CHICAGO, the last musical to win the Oscar back in 2003, and a very poor choice indeed.
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