La La Land

La La Land ★★★½

Am I really ready to slay the sacred cow of 2016's movies? Purposefully puncturing holes in the "La La Land" bubble would seem contrarian for its own-sake, not recognizing it as fun bit of escapism would be too churlish. It IS a film of great craft, appealing stars, occasionally inspired staging - a nice, if milquetoast, bit of self-reverential Hollywood fantasy ...but is it really all there is? I wanted more from it.

A piece of candy in ultra-tasteful, sophisticated packaging, with top-of-the-line still just a piece of candy. I like candy, but it's not essential to the nourishment of the soul. Someone said that watching "La La Land" was like "sticking one's head into a confetti canon." If one concession to post-modernity is a lack of a conventionally happy ending - that's not enough for the movie to stand above its cinematic references. Is there such a pressing need for yet another cinematic celebration of "dreamers" when it doesn't add something truly original to the trope?
"La La Land reproduces the storyline arc of "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (and Scorcese's "New York New York") a little too closely, minus the required emotional punch, plus the scrubbing off of "Cherbourg's" messy complications (him going off to war, her getting pregnant in his absence).

Finally, "La La Land" scores low in one crucial department - music and dance. There is not one memorable song in the bunch and much of dancing (especially Gosling's) is flat and unexciting. Stone's starkly lit solo number towards the end is the big standout, the rest is bland. Watch something like "All That Jazz" for an example of a visionary approach in that department - and its superior ability to ground a musical in 3-dimensional reality.

Needless to say, "La La Land" will absolutely clean up this award season because there is nothing Hollywood likes more than a well put-together homage to itself.

Andrei liked these reviews