(Fair warning! I will neither demonize nor excessively praise this film. Don’t expect either in this post!)
- Directed by Damien Chazelle
- Starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
- Written by Damien Chazelle
- Rated PG-13
- 128 mins.
- Released 25 December 2016
An actress who can’t catch a break, Mia, meets a down-on-his-luck jazz musician, Sebastian, through a series of cosmic coincidences and together, they work towards achieving their dreams in this nostalgic nod to Old Hollywood musicals.
How’s the Story?
The story of La La Land is a pretty standard story. Boy Meets Girl, mutual ‘dislike-yet-attraction’ becomes a ‘falling in love’ situation. It’s only in the second half of the film that the story takes a turn from a lighthearted romantic comedy to a drama about two people’s personal struggles that cross into struggles in their relationship.
I think the reason that some people don’t really enjoy this story is just because of that. It feels like two separate stories shoved into one movie, really. I got it but I didn’t love it. I understood the two parts and the importance to the plot, I just think it could’ve been done better. Have you ever seen the movie Chung King Express? It felt like that, only with the same characters’ story, whereas Chung King is literally two different stories in one movie. Because Chung King did two different stories, I LOVED that movie, but I didn’t love it in this movie since it was the same characters and thus it wasn’t supposed to feel like Chung King.
How’s the Acting?
The acting is okay. There’s nothing terribly offensive about anybody’s performance, but there’s also nothing amazing about any of the performances. It’s an film with average performances. This does make for the second movie I’ve seen with Ryan Gosling where I liked him, though. The only movie I’ve ever liked Ryan Gosling in before this was The Nice Guys and though I don’t love him in this nearly as much as in that one, I enjoyed his performance well enough.
How’s the Writing/Directing?
I would have never in a million years thought this film was directed by the same person who directed Whiplash.
I don’t understand several of the direction choices in this film. There are just moments that don’t make sense to me. For one, I don’t understand the opening dance number. It’s entirely unrelated to anything in this movie. It was totally pointless. Funny, enjoyable, but pointless. I don’t understand Mia in her car flipping off someone when she was the one who was just sitting there and then, and this is more of a writing thing, she looks up and goes ‘oh, I should go now’. That line was so out of place.
A LOT in this movie was very amateurish, really. It wasn’t bad! I think it was perfectly decent as far as writing and directing goes. It just felt like something an amateur/indie filmmaker would write and direct. The scene where Sebastian gets home and his sister is waiting was absolutely an unnecessary ‘info dump’ scene. His sister is never in the movie again, she has zero relevance to the plot, and that was the type of dialogue that only exists to tell you something the writer and director can’t find another way to get across. It was the film version of ‘telling us’ instead of ‘showing us’. He literally just shouted his whole backstory at his sister, who only existed to allow him to say, “I’m a jazz musician who is down on his luck and looking for the next step in life.”
Like I said about the story, around the middle of the film the writing and direction change so much! It gets so much better! The first third of this movie should have just been removed, honestly. We didn’t need that. It would’ve been a better film if they had cut that whole first third of the film off and just started it at the part where the two of them go to see Rebel Without A Cause, really.
How’s the Cinematography?
This one a lot of people I have seen would not agree with, but I think the cinematography of this film was also amateurish. Not poorly done amateurish, but it had a lot of shots and choices in angles and camera placements that felt like a film student trying too hard. They were beautiful shots! But something like the scene where Mia gets home and the camera is waiting on her, focused on some jewelry on a table and then the rack focus slides to her when she opens the door. It’s a really pretty shot, but it’s totally unnecessary. There’s nothing we need to see on that table. There’s no reason other than ‘this is a pretty shot’ for that shot to exist. Cinematography should enhance the story, not distract from it.
Another distracting choice would be the hand-held closeup during their argument while they’re having dinner in the apartment. I’m a fan of hand-held so much, but in such a close up of her face, while the point is to unsettle the mood, it becomes noticeable that the camera is hand-held and wobbly. That isn’t something that should be noticeable. Also it focuses WAY to much on her face for a scene where she is over-acting. You can TELL that she’s acting in that moment, it isn’t a subtle, natural performance, and it was easily one of her worst scenes in the film that was exacerbated by a shaking camera shoved right up to her nose. It reminds me of something I have done in college.
I was a first-time student filmmaker making a student film. This movie should not look like a student making a student film, and yet it does in some parts so it’s really distracting.
Is It Worth Watching?
I would say it’s worth seeing. I’m glad I saw the movie, but I won’t recommend it based solely on the fact that, in my viewing, me and my friend seemed to be the happiest people about this movie and I must stress that I didn’t really like it. I didn’t HATE it. It was a perfectly average film. It’s by no means garbage.
And yet, one couple walked out of this movie, something I’ve never seen happen before, and another group spent the walk out of the cinema loudly proclaiming how badly they hated it and all the flaws and stuff. I can agree with every flaw they claimed: It’s far too long, it’s super slow, it as a musical is so inconsistent it’s ridiculous, and it’s very pretentious and self-aggrandizing.
But I loved the ending. I didn’t like this movie as a whole, but there were parts of it that I really enjoyed, and the end of this movie was so beautiful. If they got rid of ALL of this movie and turned it into a short film starting at him driving to Boulder City to pick her up to take her to her audition and going until credits, I would LOVE that short film.
The real reason this movie makes me CRAZY bitter is because it was nominated for FOURTEEN Oscars and it doesn’t deserve a single nomination. Not one. It was not a BAD movie, but it was UTTERLY average. If it wins Best Picture I will have lost all faith in the Academy. If Emma Stone wins Best Actress when Amy Adams wasn’t even nominated, I will have lost all faith in the Academy. If it wins Cinematography, I will have lost all faith in the Academy. If it wins Best Original Screen play, I will have lost all faith in the Academy.
Some of the other awards I won’t care as much, because the offense isn’t so great, but I’m sure it will win at least one of those four awards I just listed and it will make me absolutely LIVID.
So while I don’t hate this movie at all, I am growing more and more bitter thinking about such an average film winning Oscars over some incredible films. I’ve seen better Straight To Netflix films than this one, AGAIN, not to say this movie doesn’t have any good stuff about it. I liked it better than I feared I might, and I appreciated the nostalgia of what they were trying to do. I don’t think this movie fails at doing what it intended to do, I just think it was poorly executed compared to what it could have been.
My Rating: 6/10