La La Land (2016)

Directed By: Damien Chazelle

Screenplay By: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography By: Linus Sandgren

Starring: Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling

I’m already getting into fights with my friends on this one but they are wrong, not entirely, but they are wrong. This is not a good movie. It’s a fine movie, but it isn’t good.

The biggest problem with this film is consistency. This movie does not know what it is. Is it a musical? A dance movie? A jazz film? A nostalgic ode to Los Angeles and movies of the past? I really couldn’t tell you, and trust me, it’s not all of them although it sure tries to be.

The movie starts off with a big opening number and then has two more musical numbers relatively quickly but then it starts repeating. How many times do we have to listen to the same refrain? To me that’s not a musical. Well what about the jazz pieces? There’s a moment when we get a Whiplash inspired sequence but that ends short too and never really comes back. Instead we get four notes on repeat for the rest of the film.

I’m going easy too cause I think this movie was extremely miscast. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as much as the rest of America, but the two of them are not good singers in this movie. Someone has told me that Emma Stone has been in stage musicals and there is a moment when she really belts it, so maybe it comes down to bad songs. Either way, it seems like they’re both trying really hard not to completely suck at singing. I call it as I see it (and hear it), and they both did not sound good or even just even appear to have confidence on the screen when they were singing.

There’s a grit to Whiplash that La La Land does not have. And you might say, “But this is a romancing of a situation, there can’t be grit” well go read Shakespeare, or watch West Side Story. Love stories can pack a punch, they can be dirty and grimy, soul crushing, and when talking about two people supposedly at their lowest points in Los Angeles these two have it pretty good. They needed to feel more, want more, that if they don’t find success they will die!

I will say the production design for this movie is spectacular. Some of the camera work and directing decisions are exactly the creative decisions that Hollywood needs right now. But this movie is inconsistent. The styles change a bunch. The movie doesn’t know exactly what it is. There are really good scenes throughout but they don’t feel like they all belong to the same movie or are even from the same time period. The costumes are way nicer than what two people of their status should be wearing. I never felt I understood where these characters were coming from or who they were because of all the inconsistencies. I knew what they wanted, success, but ultimately you’re watching two of the most successful movie stars in the world and I did’t buy any of it.

I think this was a noble effort by Chazelle and I look forward to him making more movies, but I just refuse to drink the koolaid on this one.

God Bless America

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