I’m back with my first post of the year! I’ve been sadly neglecting my poor blog recently, but I hope to rectify this with more posts this year, including some film ones at last. Films are my other passion and my aim this year is to review every film I go to see. Hopefully I will be able to review the latest new releases as much as possible, but I also might review a few golden oldies that I come across too.
So my first film review for this blog is the recent Golden Globe winner La La Land. After its astonishing success winning seven awards at the Golden Globes, it looks like a dead cert to pick up a slew of Oscar nominations when the nominees are announced on Tuesday January 24th.
La La Land is directed by Damien Chazelle, whose film Whiplash achieved much success at last year’s Academy Award ceremony. La La Land reunites Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, after previous pairings in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad. Here, the couple star as Mia, an aspiring actress, and jazz pianist Sebastian. Initially, the characters take an instant dislike to each other, but it isn’t long before they inevitably fall for each other. The story then focuses on whether they can achieve their dreams, a feat that may test their fledging relationship.
Being a huge fan of musicals, I was eagerly awaiting La La Land. I thought the trailer looked fantastic and I was certain that I was going to adore this movie. Yet somehow, I feel slightly underwhelmed and disappointed with it. In fact, I still can’t quite make up my mind about this film. Perhaps I need a second viewing before I really decide. It’s not often, but sometimes, it can take me a couple of viewings to truly appreciate a film.
There are many elements of La La Land that I loved and I certainly don’t want to detract from the beauty within this movie. It is visually stunning and its dazzling imagery depicts Los Angeles in a positive light, a city that is often accused of being soulless and seedy. The costumes are gorgeous, especially Mia’s wide range of dresses. I had serious wardrobe envy throughout the film!
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling certainly have a sparkling chemistry, although I preferred their pairing in Crazy Stupid Love. Who could forget their recreation of the Dirty Dancing lift?!
“That’s LA. They worship everything and they value nothing.”
Despite the glowing positives, I fear the negatives may outweigh my previous thoughts. While I loved the homage to old Hollywood films, in particular Singin’ in the Rain, this doesn’t quite live up to those classics. I couldn’t help compare it to the most recent musical adaptation of Les Miserables. In that film, the live singing was a brave choice, which resulted in more powerful performances. Here, the lip synching detracts from any emotional impact the characters were trying to convey. While Stone and Gosling give it their all, their vocal abilities seemed limited, highlighted as soon as the talented John Legend performed in the film. Perhaps this was the intention of the filmmakers in order to make the two central protagonists more relatable, but I couldn’t help wondering what more seasoned musical performers could have brought to the roles.
The dance sequences were enjoyable and I couldn’t stop tapping my feet, wishing I could join the characters onscreen. Yet at the same time, the two actors didn’t convey any sense of naturalness in these scenes. These moments in the film felt very much a performance and slightly contrived. In fact, the whole film felt a little too self-aware and self-referential to portray any sense of realism. Surprisingly for a musical, the songs weren’t even that memorable, with only a couple of numbers in particular being a standout for me.
At 128 minutes long, La La Land is quite a lengthy feature and unfortunately it began to drag in the final act. I expected to come out of the screening with a huge smile on my face, but to be honest I was just relieved it was finally over. That might be more to do with me feeling sleepy at that point, though!
I do feel I am being too harsh on this film and I am surprising myself with how negative this review has become. I honestly expected La La Land to become one of my new favourites, but somehow it seemed to be lacking a certain something for me. This feels like such a shame, so I think I will definitely have to revisit it again some time. By then, I might end up falling completely in love with it. Who knows?!
Have you seen La La Land yet? Do you completely disagree with everything I’ve just said? Feel free to comment and tell me why I’m wrong!