Sad to say this review on ‘La La Land’ might be one quite different from others. But stay with me, I’ve got reasoning behind my thoughts against Rotten Tomatoes 93%. Now I understand what Damien Chazelle, the director, was trying to do; create an old classic musical feel but in modern times. Good idea. I just feel it wasn’t quite there, instead it felt like it was trying too hard, too much was forced into a film which didn’t feel quite right being there.
Now firstly, of course I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both actors are fantastic and I love many of their films. And we all know they got chemistry and they make great films together. I have no fault in these actors. Ryan Gosling’s piano playing was beautiful and gave me the chills occasionally in the film. And I do love a bit of dancing being a fan of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (of course not up to the standards of professional dancers on that however). The tap dancing was enjoyable too. But sadly, there’s not much else I can say I loved about the film…
Now a big part of a musical is to have great, enjoyable songs, or powerful, emotional ones. But I feel ‘La La Land’ didn’t quite reach to that level. It’s hard to explain what I was missing, but there didn’t seem to have much strength in voices or the songs. However, saying this, I do have to admit that Mia’s (Emma Stone) singing audition was one to appreciate, she finally manage to reach that level that was missing in all the other songs. And she definitely has a great voice, but it felt hidden in other songs or weaker than its potential. And of course when John Legend came on the scene and starting singing it reached that strength as well, kicking in the power of a musical into the film. But other than these two songs, I wasn’t invested into the songs. For instance, the power from Meryl Streep in ‘The Winner Takes It All’ is so emotional for the audience, we feel what she is feeling, we feel the passion and enjoy the song. Of course, there are so many other enjoyable songs in ‘Mamma Mia!’, I personally love them all (maybe the advantage of this is that they use songs people already know – maybe?). But as another example, the personality that Nikki Blonsky throws in her songs in ‘Hairspray’ is great. ‘La La Land’ just didn’t reach the stages of musicals such as these ones.
Another thing, a film that is set over a series of seasons means it’s got to be fast pace to be able to fit a whole year in two hours. This created a few problems for me. At the beginning, they were trying to quickly throw in backgrounds for characters and it felt quite random. Also, I wasn’t that invested in the relationship between Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia, and as a romance musical, this needs to be important. Maybe it was just me, but it was all a bit too quick and I didn’t feel the strength of in depth characters that I worship in so many other films. But this could always be a problem when they skip so much in a year and try to say too much.
Now for the effects of the film, again I understand why they tried to do this, to create that essence of dreamy life. But there was an obsession with dimming the lights in every scene. It was either the corners of the film dimmed or the whole screen going black to focus on one thing. I understand occasional times to add effect and add a romance to the music, but every single time was just too much. Additionally, the spinning of the camera, just a bit disorientating for the audience, personally. Plus, circling into one section of the film for a fade out of the scene is something which is so unnatural in film. It reminds me of old ‘Tom and Jerry’ episodes, and yes I loved ‘Tom and Jerry’, but that’s an animation about a cat who wants to eat a mouse, yet the mouse always escapes… Not a real life musical. And I also know it’s used to exaggerate and almost make a mimicky feel to the film, but I don’t think ‘La La Land’ was trying to do that… So why was it there? Maybe all these effects were trying to create an unrealistic film and that was the point but I wasn’t catching on. To me, it just felt a bit forced.
Overall, ‘La La Land’ is nothing compared to other musicals I’ve seen. The romance was nowhere near the scale of Danny or Sandy. Nor where the songs as enjoyable as classic ABBA. Nor was the plot as strong as in ‘Hairspray’. Instead, it was a film of an aspiring actress and a struggling pianist, jumping through life. At the beginning of the film, the film was packed with dancing and singing, but as the film progressed there was less and less songs. However saying all this, I do think that this film would make a great theatre show, it just didn’t get there with the film in my opinion. But watch the film yourself, because I know many have disagreed with me already.