LaLa Land

Damien Chazelle, director

with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

la_la_land_filmTwo creative young people meet on the Los Angeles freeway when stuck in traffic, and later, have other encounters which draw them together and they fall in love. The movie is about the struggle of being a musician and an actress, how hard it is to succeed, how magical it can be to fall in love, but how rare it is to stay together.

The movie tries hard to be a musical, but it keeps starting and stopping, and does not maintain a rhythm that succeeds in telling its story in a convincing way.  Of course this is not a realistic picture.  How often do you see stalled traffic result in people jumping out of their cars to sing and dance?  Or on visiting the planetarium, dance while levitating in the heavens depicted on the ceiling?

You are either charmed by this sort of thing or you are not.  But I couldn’t help thinking, unless you are going to hire first rate musicians and choreographers, you are going to be compared to better musicals, and fall flat.  There is a singular lack of musical zip.

Add to that the slow pace of everything, including the tempo of the music.  Emma Stone’s face does not bear up to extreme close ups.  Yet the director cannot get enough of her.  I much prefer Ryan Gosling who is charming throughout.  And there are many good things about the movie, including its vaulted ambition.  How marvelous to want to make a romantic musical centered on two of our most appealing talented young actors.  The sets and use of Los Angeles, the attention to jazz and acting as worthwhile pursuits, the use of coffee shops and Warner Brothers sets paying homage to the old greats like Ingrid Bergman, these are wonderful.  There are many scenes that click too, for instance when Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) drives his gas guzzling car to Boulder City Nevada to fetch Mia for an important audition.  When he blares his horn, and she hears it inside, it is a lovely moment.  Even their fight over their individual ambitions and their conflicts does work.

It is the music that alienated me, beginning with the first song. If you are going to have a musical, you need to have big songs sung with great convictionwalking-on-bridge freeway-dance gosling-in-car

This never happens.  Also the choreography is weak, and weakly danced.   It is as if the actors knew they couldn’t top Astaire and Rogers or even Gene Kelly and Mickey Mouse, so they didn’t even try.

The more I think of the movie it left a quick sour aftertaste (why does everyone rave about it so?) which slowly mellows into an acceptance of a director whose ambition is laudable.  I only wish he had hired better song and dance creators.



About Patricia Markert

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4 Responses to LaLa Land

  1. lizagyllenhaal says:

    I feel that I must speak up for a movie that I did fall for. What you cite as its failings — primarily that it was not a glossy, old-Hollywood-style musical — I took as its strengths. It was rough around the edges and spontaneous, more along the lines of an old Judy Garland-Micky Rooney-style “let’s put on a show” movie. I think the critics are really off-base comparing Stone and Gosling to Astaire and Rogers. I don’t think it was ever the intention to aspire to that level of song and dance, rather it was more a homage to the romance of it all — and the longing to keep big dreams alive. I can’t defend the ending which was pathetic.

    • Mary Markert says:

      I went to see with 2 gal pals and we all loved it. I agree with your observation about the end. I just sat there with my mouth open ;). I could never pretend to be such a great critique as my sis….so I don’t have much technical to say about it except that we all agreed that is was refreshing to see Lala Land instead of all those violent movie trailers that they play in our small town theaters in Syracuse.

    • I completely agree with you about the movie trailers. We need more movies with romance and brightly colored costumes, and beautifully choreographed dance numbers. I love musicals.

      I am in the minority in not liking this as much as most people, but I really appreciate the intention of the movie which is to get us wrapped up in a romance in Los Angeles.
      The more I think of it, the more I like the portrait of Los Angeles, how the movie opens with a huge traffic jam, how the stars dance in the parking lot with a view of the whole city below them, etc.

      It’s not fair that Syracuse doesn’t get more choices. I am spoiled by what New York has to offer.

  2. I promise never to compare Gosling and Stone to Astaire and Rogers. Sometimes I just don’t get the chemistry of a movie. It’s like my husband not liking Paul Newman. How can anyone not like Paul Newman? But there you are.

    I love a romantic movie. West Side Story makes me cry every time.

    I think this movie is of its time, a bright spot in a dark era. I wonder how it will age.

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