Sunday, 22 January 2017

La La Land (12A)

You may have missed the memo, but we don't live in the nicest of times - America is now governed by toxic Wotsit who swept to power on a wave of racist rhetoric, while Britain voted to leave the EU after those in charge decided blaming foreigners was preferable to actually solving any problems.

After watching worldwide protests against a man who thinks sexual assault is the right of the rich, and then reading comments from people who said protests were a waste of time because they were OK thanks, I really needed a dose of the warm and fuzzies.

So, what better than La La Land, a film lauded from all quarters for being a classic Hollywood feel-good film?

A good question.

I'm still working on the answer, and the list is growing.

That's not to say La LA Land isn't a good film, I'm just not sure it's the film people keep saying it is.

The story, such as it is, is a simple one. Boy meets girl (or girl meets boy, depending on your point of view or where you want to say it all began), jazz is discussed, romance ensues.

And people sing and dance.

It has been sold as a return to 'classic' Hollywood, and while some great films of yore had singing and dancing, others didn't.

Both were good, but which do you want to see as the 'classic' era?

Well, you kind of get both here - with the dancing and the singing and the sweeping panoramic shots and some attempts at proper, meaningful dialogue.

But then you get fleeting moments of very fast cuts, which are so modern you think they've wandered in by mistake.

And there are laughs too, which help. A bit.

But underneath the gloss and the sheen, there really isn't a whole lot going on.

It's an homage to Hollywood (something Hollywood itself is always keen on) with jazz bits thrown in - and the weird thing is, the jazz bits are far more 'real' than anything else.

And that takes some time to get your head round, because to begin with they almost jar.

And this being written and directed by Damien Chazelle, you can't help but draw comparisons with Whiplash.

If for no other reason than it feels like the jazz scenes belong in that film. As do the fast cuts.

You see, in Whiplash, all that made sense. Jazz is off-kilter, frantic, almost feral. Done right it's hot, sweaty and passionate. Almost desperate at times.

A musical is none of those things.

Even Sweeney Todd, which is about as nasty and dirty as musicals get, follows the same tropes and gentle pacing of the genre.

La La Land is a far more eclectic beast.

The opening sequence is, as generally seems to be the accepted view, beautifully done. It's bright, sunny, fun. It's almost theatrical, stage-like, Broadway-esque.

Then there are Emma Stone's audition scenes, or Ryan Goslings piano noodlings. Again, brilliantly done, but they also feel like they're from a different movie.

And that's where I start having a slight problem with La La Land.

For everything I like about it, I can't shake the feeling that Chazelle decided to chuck the whole of Hollywood into a blender then throw it at the screen.

You get comedy, music, drama, heartbreak, whimsy, quirk, dance, fantasy - pretty much everything bar thriller and horror.

The singing's OK, the dancing is good, the story is fine - but by the end, I probably had more questions about this film than I did at the start.


  1. Thank you. Saved me going out. Ta.

  2. I think you've been very kind in your review. I went expecting a wonderful, feel good musical - a movie that would charm me, sweep me off my feet and fill me full of romance. It didn't deliver. Maybe if there'd been less hype about it I would have had lower expectations, and been less disappointed. As it was I found it a confused, messy film, which frankly seemed to forget it was a musical at all for the middle section, and then hastily threw in a muscial montage at the end, which I found too little too late and ultimately unsatisfying.
    I wish I'd saved my money and waited for the DVD. But you live and learn, I guess! Jxx