Toshita’s review published on Letterboxd:
"It's too nostalgic. Are people going to like it?"
La La Land does scream film nostalgia, and this quote is the best way to understand how this movie perceives itself as well as what is truly is; a love letter from Hollywood to Hollywood. Once you get past the stunning visuals and light, airy music, the mediocre singing and the stumbling that supposedly passes for dancing stand out. Let's face it, Ryan and Emma can't sing or dance. The simplest way to make this movie more effective would have been to cast actual triple threats. I don't think the face value of Ryan and Emma are that important, because it is possible for a movie to succeed without big-name actors, but if they had to use them, they could have at least had someone else do the singing. The dancing was probably a little harder to fix but really? They weren't even in step during the dance sequence on Mt. Hollywood Drive.
I think that this movie was supposed to be a harmless throwback to Hollywood's past as well as a tribute to the struggles of the profession, but it's still a white movie made by white actors for white actors. Sebastian's white savior complex is too much for me to swallow at times. If you're going to make the topic of jazz one of the main plot points, maybe consider a black actor as an acknowledgement of the history of jazz(imagine John Legend as the lead instead of a vague memory of Sebastian's past and someone Chazelle is obviously trying to vilify). And if that's too hard then change the plot? And that's just the tip of the iceberg if you think about what this movie is romanticizing; Hollywood of the '40s and '50s. Clearly, the movie was trying to pick up on the musical aspect of the age, but there's also the underlying racist tones and how people of color were marginalized in the industry and glorifying that past is dangerous especially when you take into consideration the level of whiteness in the narrative and Ryan's character.
I believe that if this movie starred people of color, it would've deserved everything that it got. I think that that one action could do it. It would've been the perfect chance to say, "Hey, we acknowledge the excellence of the past, but what if..." La La Land was enjoyable, don't get me wrong. I liked it as is. I said what I said because of what this movie turned out to be; a movie that tied the record for most Academy Award nominations. La La Land does not deserve that. It was fun and cute, but nothing more. It was not ambitious. It was not revolutionary. The acting was good, but the roles required additional musical talent and the actors did not have it. This movie got to where it was because it was a movie about the industry and industry loves itself.