<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, JK Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock
Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes
It’s not entirely like the musicals from the good old days but it makes a good attempt at capturing the magic of the musicals.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, La La Land tells us the tale of two people trying to make their dreams come true. Mia (Emma Stone) works in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio lot and attends auditions for anything and everything. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician who is letting life do what it wants with him as he dreams of having his own jazz club one day. Both are struggling with less-than-happy lives where only music and movies seem to bring a smile to their face. Until of course they meet each other.
La La Land is a love story for sure but it’s also a story about choices and lost opportunities. It’s about career versus love and dreams versus destiny.
I thought the film would be full of song and dance but that’s not the case. There are a few dance pieces and some so-so songs that move the story forward. For the most part, there’s just a lot of dialogue that isn’t very memorable mostly because it’s a story that we’ve seen many, many times before.
I’m not saying that La La Land doesn’t have its moments. When Mia and Sebastian have their moonlit walk to their cars after a party and then start singing it’s a truly fun sequence. But later, when they are at an observatory’s planetarium and then start flying around in the air as they sing, it seems a bit out of place.
For someone who has grown up with musicals like The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Grease, Footloose and Dirty Dancing, watching something like La La Land is akin to going from watching thoroughbred horses race to staring at ants in an ant farm go about their chores. Perhaps the reason why so many critics and viewers are professing their love for the film is that anything nostalgic nowadays is met with great fanfare, irrespective of the quality. We want so badly to go back to better times that we greet anything that remotely resembles our fond memories with the fanfare of something that perhaps doesn’t deserve it.
Both Gosling and Stone are wonderful in their roles and probably half the reason for the film’s success. The music by Justin Hurwitz isn’t memorable and you’re probably not going to want to go out and buy the CD (yes, I know that no one buys CDs anymore).
It’s probably the simplicity and uniqueness of La La Land that has made it such a hit. And I’m not begrudging it that honour. We must certainly see more films with songs and dance in only the way Hollywood can give us. We may never get a ‘classic’ again but at least we can revisit the good ol’ days once in a while.