Those of you with perceptive vision will notice that I put some quotations over “review.” That is because this will not be one of my standard, traditional-styled reviews where I drone on about the objective qualifications and whether or not the subject is recommendable. Instead, all I will do is discuss the bare features of the film and hopefully answer a few questions newcomers will have when deciding whether they want to see La La Land or not.
There is somewhat of a debate in the labeling of this film as a “musical.” La La Land is very much about music in general, but it also aspires to pay homage to many musicals of the past. Lead actors Emma Stone and (especially) Ryan Gosling are not exactly professional singers, and the quantity of musical numbers dwindle as the film carries on. There are quite a few musical numbers to begin the first half hour of the film, but there is a very noticeable drop-off about halfway through. I’ve heard the argument that the realistic style of singing by said actors was made to make the film more “realistic,” though I’m not sure how you could make the opening scene realistic in the absolute slightest, so I tend not to agree with that stance. By film’s end, I feel it’s necessary to label the film as a musical, as it contains a numbers of songs that break the realism from the scene , but there’s also a lot more at play here to simply predicate its quality entirely on the musical aspect.
Other labels include romance, comedy, and drama, so one should have a feeling the film will rely some on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! Quite abundantly does it try to coerce the viewer’s heart to sway with the characters on-screen, though I feel the manner it takes is more effective than most due to the visual manifestation of said emotions. Not only is this film a sponge for the empathetic, but a stimulative for the artsy minds looking for a dazzling and intriguing look at a very, very tired subject. It says right on the cover art: “Here’s to the fools who dream.” It is, at its very foundation, a gift to those who have ever wanted something with every twitch of the soul. Should that appeal to you, know that it also does so without making it too apparently blunt. And also with the bitterness that is carried along the way.
One other aspect is balancing out the enormous amount of hype surrounding the film at this point in its release. Truth be told, I found myself wanting to see it simply to see if it really was as spectacular as many held it to be. I’m a fairly skeptical man, and knowing critics are willing to discard wonderful objectivity for a sniff and a tear made me all the more pessimistic going into it. By all means, La La Land is no perfect film. I had issues with it, and at times I wondered if the musical aspect could’ve felt more important. More than anything, however, was how enthralled I was with the aspect of how much of a “movie” the movie felt. A wreckless abandon of merriness and lighting and angles and spins and props and energy with lots and lots of pizzazz! One of those rare occasions when the technical foundations of storytelling almost didn’t matter in contrast to the excitement of genuine filmmaking. Fear not the overwhelming hype, as daunting as it may appear. It’s not hard to pretend that the film is but a one-off endeavor of heart.
I would absolutely recommend the film to anyone, but especially those with my own disposition of aspiring to be something more. One could say that I’m biased as I fit right within the comfortable hole the film creates for me, and they’d be correct in a way. I was moved by the criteria of the film and the way it was portrayed, but there are other features to the film that could just as easily satisfy, as the genres also denote comedy and romance. A nice effort is shown to make every little detail important, so much so that it oftentimes makes fun of itself. Most scenes are more than they show to be, and the threads of fate paint a canvas of foreshadowing and suspense without distracting from the original pace of the scenario. The biggest argument I could make in defense of La La Land is that while it may not be the most stupendous or inspiring of stories, it is entirely so as a film.
Final Score: 9/10
The rating for this title and all others can be found on my IMDb account.
5 thoughts on “La La Land “Review””
Thanks for the bare-bones overview. I have yet to see the film but absolutely intend to do so at some point. While I’ve seen plenty of musicals and musical film adaptations, my interest in the movie doesn’t stem as much from that aspect of it as it does from the visuals I’ve seen in trailers. From the sound of it, it’s a pretty lighthearted, upbeat film and I’ve heard some people attribute it’s success to – ‘it’s just the kind of movie we all needed right now’ – which I suppose is interesting. The comment you mention about the ‘realistic singing’ will also be an interesting thing to look out for. It looks like fun and I’m looking forward to seeing it sometime.
“‘it’s just the kind of movie we all needed right now’”
Please don’t think that. I never thought that at all while watching the film. People putting politics into anything nowadays.
It was just a passing comment I had heard and I didn’t think of it as being politicized. It seemed like more of a reflection on the kind of movies we’ve been making rather than something with an agenda behind it. No worries, not putting any stock in it.
This is one of my favorite films of 2016, second only to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I agree that the musical numbers are unevenly shoved into the first act of the film and largely go away after that save a few scant moments. I tend to not like musicals because, as you say, they break you out of reality. Indeed I felt my enjoyment of La La Land also went up when the musical elements faded out. One idea I thought may show itself under further analysis is that the film is charting eras of film history through each act but I’d need to watch the film again with that mindset to confirm it.
One aspect of the musical numbers I did like was that Gosling and Stone aren’t the best singers or dancers. They’re competent, sure, but their roughness brings them down to earth. So often in musicals a flawed character will break into a perfect singing/dancing routine that breaks the mold of who they are. In La La Land our leads are amateurs in their professions during the bulk of the musical sequences and it shows in their performance.