La La Land

La La Land ★★½

so imagine demy (but, like, only an okay version) directed detention (but, like, only an okay version) and sprinkled on its four corners the blood of badlands (but, like, only an okay version) and wrapped the whole thing up in the hide of bojack horseman (but, like, only an okay version). i adore musicals with all my heart & mind & soul & strength so please know it is with a heavy heart (& mind etc.) i must announce: this is aggressively mediocre.

i mean emma stone and ryan gosling can tap-dance decently. which isn’t bad! but everyone’s so quick to hail them as modern-day fred astaire and ginger rogers… and it’s cliché to say but watching them only made me want to watch the much better films they recalled. chazelle clearly loves this genre, so he knows his tap-dancers aren’t even second-tier; is he trying to push through some kind of statement that the ages of film diminish in scale & wonder, as if cinema were greek mythology or middle-earth? if so, what about all the genre modernisation that his characters eventually accept? are these artistic revolutions merely downward spirals? are mia & sebastian losing touch with greatness by embracing jazz-pop & hollywood over bebop & one-woman monologues? is chazelle trying to defend his actors’ middling talent by telling us they were necessary to make the film financially viable?

speaking of middling talent, is seb’s very white love of jazz (but, like, only okay versions—seriously, no-one in these films ever listens to charles mingus or sun ra or anything genuinely avant the garde even for the 60s) and how compositions can be taken apart and put back together the reason why ‘another day of sun’ and ‘someone in the crowd’ and ‘a lovely night’ and ‘audition (the fools who dream)’ and even ‘city of stars’ are all minor variations on mia & sebastian’s theme? that kiiiiind of works but then why is the score so insistent on repeating a single (admittedly lovely) theme (aaaaaaarguably two, maybe) over and over while barely developing it? jazz develops themes rather than merely repeating them over and over! and in line with the breadth of the score: why is this whole pretty affair so broad with no sense of specificity whatsoever? why are the jokes so broad? why are the characters so broad? why are the cinematic references so broad? why is the cinematic language so obvious? why does this have such a basic & unprovocative understanding of layers & categories of artifice? why do the lyrics sound like they’re ghostwritten by coldplay? i have so many questions and i’m sure there are answers but i’m not sure i’d be satisfied with any that might arise.

tbh i feel like the only answer i’d get would be ‘because otherwise it wouldn’t have been nominated for fourteen academy awards’.

p.s. i do actually think that seb’s desire to be the saviour of jazz is pretty well-critiqued in-film. i mean there is very very little that is actually likeable about him; his ambition is made the butt of many many jokes; his actions towards mia are depicted as being at least borderline unsafe. this is not glorious romance and it’s terrifying that people see it that way???

p.p.s. hi i’m allergic to gluten among other things and while i’m mildly annoyed with gluten-freeness being a health fad i’m very happy it means i can eat at more places so maybe take yr jokey-jokes elsewhere damien

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