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La La Land: Review

With a record-breaking seven awards at the 74th Golden Globes Awards, La La Land seemed to sweep everybody off their feet. A film with a simplistic and overused plot that revolves around an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and hopeful Jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) struggling to break-even in the city of stars. Director Damien Chazelle — who previously directed Whiplash, who also stars J.K. Simmons as baddie, or at the very least sadistic — turned out to be doing a bit too much.

The film is set in present day, with snippets of 1950’s and 60’s film techniques, such as fading out and zooming out of an enclosing black hole (I’m not a film maker, but you know what I mean), singing, dancing and transporting the audience into a surrealist world that threw around dream and reality, endlessly clashing into one another. Cinematographically the film is undeniably beautiful, particularly with the fantastical and dream-like sequences, but the singing was nothing groundbreaking and the plot could have been written by my 11-year-old niece.

The couple moves through life working at their aspirations, Stone categorically gets let down at every audition and no one lets Gosling play his favorite jingle, not even on Christmas (cue little tear). Gosling even manages to get Stone to love Jazz like he does. But then, suddenly, he gets a gig with an egocentric singer (John Legend) who wants to revolutionize jazz into a more pop like genre to draw a larger audience. Although he gets paid a thousand dollars a week, Gosling is never home and forgets to attend his girlfriend’s one-woman play. He runs to her as she is leaving the theatre but she drives away from him and he attempts to apologize. Have I bored you yet?   

I did enjoy the theatricality of the film – although I didn’t think it was out of the ordinary, it was light-hearted and entertaining – even if the opening scene with people getting out of their cars in a typical L.A. traffic jam on the 405 freeway reminded me of a Coca Cola commercial, with a slightly worse musical score.

Regardless, Stone’s performance was moving in some scenes, but I can’t stress enough how the dialogue between the two characters was flat and at times cliché. I was seldom convinced by Gosling, who attempted to radiate a Johan Borg or a Maude Lebowski, but didn’t quite make it. I disliked their platitudes so much I almost didn’t want them to succeed at their dreams (I’m like J.K. Simmons), but of course they did, because the film is a stack of banality on a stick. Also, why did it take twenty-five minutes to understand the name of the main protagonist?

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