To read about, watch commercials for, or even hear people talk about La La Land (directed by Damien Chazelle) is to be convinced that it is the movie of the century. By gosh, it swept every award at the Golden Globes and is nominated all over the Oscars. But much like the hype surrounding Les Miserables in 2013, this movie musical is just that: hype.
The movie follows the love story of Mia (played by Emma Stone), an aspiring LA actress, and Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with dreams of owning his own club. Their paths cross in musical numbers throughout the film as fate makes it clear they are meant to be together. They become involved, and Sebastian gives up his wild dreams for a stable gig that causes him to travel for weeks at a time. Meanwhile Mia works on her one woman show about her life. The longer Sebastian is gone, the further apart the couple drifts, and they discover that professional success comes with having to make important decisions about their respective futures.
In terms of plot this movie is as generic as they come. Boy meets girl, they don’t like each other at first, then they do and then they fall in love.
There isn’t even an interesting conflict. All of the drama happens silently in drawn out cutscenes that skip months of time to get to the end of the film. The one scene that, I assume, was meant to be the climax was understated and uninteresting, the “conflict” coming in the form of a mild argument over dinner that I could have had with my fiancée last week and forgotten about.
As far as the singing and dancing talent in this film goes, it is average at best. Neither actors are singers or dancers, and it is painfully evident to anyone who has ever seen an old musical film or a staged musical. In terms of music, this “musical” is soaringly lacking with a mere six musical numbers (not counting the instrumental soundtrack where action or “dancing” takes place), one of which is repeated over and over and over in the middle of the film, and it’s not even the best or second best song in the film.
The best song in the entire film is a John Legend song that barely counts as a musical number due to the fact that it’s sung by John Legend in a concert scene. As someone who is studying both film and theatre I was horribly dissatisfied with the talent on screen. It was clear they went for star power and name dropping over actors qualified to be in a Hollywood musical.
This film was advertised as an homage to old Hollywood style musicals such as Singing in the Rain, but in comparing themselves to a historic and beautiful era of cinema, they only drew more attention to their lack of old Hollywood style and grace. You can’t put on a pair of tap shoes and magically become Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.
From the generic plot to the lack of skill or musical magic, to the miscasting and unsatisfying ending, La La Land was a huge miss. Regardless it will probably win Oscars over much more deserving films.