What did you think of La La Land?
Masterpiece or overrated?
Does it explore Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the struggle for an artistic career well enough?
Check out my video response below:
My other YouTube videos can be found here
“Los Angeles is a town that worships everything, but respects nothing”- Sebastian
In 2013 Damian Chazelle released Whiplash, his second feature film. It was a fascinating film with strong performances. I was curious to see what he would follow it up with. I certainly was not expecting a romantic musical!
La La Land has opened to immense critical and audience acclaim, however I had plenty of people warning me about what a terrible film it was. Therefore, I was very intrigued.
La La Land is set in modern Los Angeles and has a simple premise that has been done a million times over. It’s a love story of two people who meet, fall in love, and part due to life circumstances. Unrequited love is the most romantic and tragic, right?
The film centres around an aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and a jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Mia and Sebastian are trying to turn their passions into full time careers and meet by chance at a restaurant. They develop a quick friendship by bonding over a shared passion in the pursuit of that seemingly unreachable arts and entertainment career. This leads to a romance that tests their beliefs in their chosen fields, in love, in themselves, in each other and that formidable and menacing town (Los Angeles) that will either make or break them.
The first scene features a severe traffic jam on a Los Angeles bridge. Hundreds of people trying to get somewhere but going nowhere. A metaphor for the life of a struggling actor/artist. The characters immediately burst into a tedious song and dance number. I instantly knew that the singing and dancing in this movie was going to be trite and I was right.
The major problem with this film is the song and dance numbers. They are completely unnecessary and tedious. They don’t add any value to the movie apart from trying to fit into the musical movie genre. Gosling and Stone do not have good singing voices, which makes it all the more annoying.
La La Land had so much potential to be so much better than it actually was. Stone and Gossling are decent actors. Stone impressed me in Birdman and Gossling impressed me in Half Nelson. They can definitely carry a film if they were working with better material.
The other major problem with La La Land is that it’s trying to resurrect a particular genre which no longer works. The golden age romantic Hollywood musical was such a genre of its time. Chazelle has all the technical elements in operation but not the spirit. It seems like a really earnest attempt to mimic it, but it fails. The spirit of the golden age romantic Hollywood musical is no longer with us. It died with the golden age.
Omitting all the singing and dancing would have allowed the film to have become more interesting. The struggles of an aspiring artist in such a cruel town full of broken dreams and spirits is a wonderful concept. The effects of Hollywood and fame on the human soul have been explored brilliantly in films such as Sunset Boulevard, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Day of the Locust and Mulholland Drive.
Unfortunately La La Land doesn’t go beyond the surface. It certainly has the ability to but it doesn’t make the leap. It begins to tap into the emotional and psychological LA journey but it stops before things begin to get really interesting. It’s a simplistic view of how people interact and feel about the system.
It’s a light hearted musical but that’s no excuse not to give it real substance and flavor. Martin Scorcese did it in New York New York. Francis Ford Coppola created real intrigue and allure with One From The Heart.
Perhaps the structure of La La Land and its exploration of the Hollywood industry and Los Angeles would suffice to a novice. A person who has not been exposed to other films and texts which explore this theme. From that angle, it might be a good introduction into the sub genre.
It wasn’t as bad as the negative reviews but it wasn’t very good either. The highlight of the film was Sebastian”s following line:
“Los Angeles is a town that worships everything but respects nothing”
Check out my article on celebrities making political statements here