La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle, 2016

In its 100 year existence, Hollywood cinema has produced some incredible motion pictures, many of which have influenced cinema all over the globe. Hollywood has also produced some stinkers; the industry is rife with racially discriminatory and gender imbalanced films that are still all too common in modern production. Guess which category La La Land falls into (insert unimpressed emoji face here). When the trailer was first released it failed to grab me the way I’d hoped, yet I decided to keep an open mind. More fool me. This film is two hours and eight minutes of my life that I resent having given to all involved. Here’s why:

The film follows Mia (Emma Stone) an aspiring actress who works in a café on the Warner Bros lot and her romantic entanglement with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) following an incident of road rage where the two characters meet. The spoilers end there because I genuinely refuse to give this film credit based on several crucially damaging attributes. Firstly, it’s a musical and not a musical in the acceptable sense, a musical in The Sound of Music/Rogers & Hammerstein sense. Think people stuck on a crowded highway and belting out a tune followed by perfectly choreographed dance routines in the sweltering Californian sun. Any film where the story/plot is literally sung moment for moment at the audience is a painful undertaking, but La La Land takes it to new unforgiveable heights.  There’s also the one song that is repeated ad nauseum throughout the film to an almost unintentionally comical point.

Secondly, there are plenty of reviews that will mention the “loving homage” to Gene Kelly and An American in Paris. If you’ve never seen the latter, it would be wise to watch it before you see La La Land. Shameless pillaging of films that have gone before is rarely a good move and even less so when the actors involved are inexperienced dancers (however, Stone and Gosling are impressive in this area considering both actors had to learn to dance from scratch).

Thirdly, the compositions are poor. The music is mostly jazz-pop based, but the jazz sections in particular are reminiscent of a poor man’s Miles Davis. Had the score been notable I would have forgiven this film of a lot of its misgivings, but to say the music is below par is being kind.

Finally, but certainly not wantonly, the story is one of the worst to have graced the silver screen. The two main characters are not even remotely likeable and become even less so as the film progresses. For more on this topic, check out David Cox’s argument over at The Guardian.

The lack of diversity and soul make La La Land very difficult to tolerate, especially given the record number of nominations the film has received for the upcoming Oscars on Monday (unbelievably it’s tied with Titanic and All About Eve for most ever nominations). If it wins it will be a depressing day for all of us who love movies and who adore Hollywood’s selectively wonderful output. Let’s hope the win goes to a deserving picture (Moonlight, I’m looking at you and Mahershala Ali!)


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Michelle Audrey 2017


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