From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jan 23 15:35:27 2017
LA LA LAND (2016)
A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2016 David N. Butterworth
** (out of ****)
Well of course movie musicals are fake. They're faux by design, phantasmagorical by their very nature. L.A. commuters don't spontaneously
exit their vehicles on a backed-up freeway on-ramp and throw themselves wholeheartedly into a communal this-is-the-dawning-of-the-age-of-Aquarius-styled song and dance number. Obviously, it just doesn't happen.
But there's something about the way it happens in "La La Land" (that opening scene, specifically, and the rest of the movie in general) that
feels, well... faker than usual.
Maybe it's the songs--they're not nearly memorable enough for my
liking (I can just about recall the dirge-like refrain from "City of Stars"
but that's about it). Maybe it's the sycophantic self-promotion:
"Hollywood doesn't make Hollywood musicals like this anymore!" Or maybe
it's simply the simplistic storyline that feels too plastic-y: Mia's an aspiring actress, Sebastian's a struggling musician, they meet cute and
love blooms--yes, way too plastic for my liking, like the painted palm
trees on the painted backdrops that are wheeled on and off the backlot.
Alas, this stylized, wall-to-wall inauthenticity pries out the
emotional heart of Damien ("Whiplash") Chazelle's modern-day musical
fantasy, leaving it needless and empty. It's a pretty thing in the
foothills and the spotlights, where toes tap and dreams are tapped out, but
it never feels real, never for one second.
On the plus side, the actors are better than the material. Emma Stone
is phenomenal in the film--we can likely expect a second Oscar nom and a possible first-time win for this strikingly adept performer--and Ryan
Gosling, her song-and-dance partner/co-star, is none too shabby either. As
has been pointed out all too frequently, they're no Fred and Ginger, but they're smooth and confident and give engaged performances, repeating the winning chemistry they first realized in "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
I oh so wanted "La La Land" to work for me; I wholly expected it to resonate with me, somehow. I like musicals. I even like contemporary musicals. I loved the revisionist "Moulin Rouge!" and the edgier-still
"Dancer in the Dark." I was also mightily impressed by the recent
big-screen "Les Miz," and I even thought both "Pitch Perfect" movies to
date had their (mostly musical) moments. But in my book, "La La..." is just