C.S. Walsky’s review published on Letterboxd:
Jazz Hands, Lube Jobs, and FM Radio: My Review of La La Land
Before my daughter went off to college I'd occasionally take her car in for an oil change. This wasn't my favorite thing in the world as I drive an awesome car and my teenage daughter does not. Plus, it killed my morning routine of Howard Stern and aggressively strong coffee - which are the primary reasons I haven't murdered someone in a road rage indecent. See, my daughter's car doesn't have luxuries like SiriusXM, Bluetooth, or even a working CD player. But part of parenting is sacrifice, so I'd crowbar myself into her little Chevy Cobalt begin my 35 minute trek to work.
Once inside I'd quickly move the seat back to avoid rupturing my testicles since my constant requests to "move the seat back" continually fell on deaf ears. Then, I'd instinctively flip on the radio which was always tuned to a station called Z93 - "today's #1 hit music station" they boldly claimed. Now, if you know me at all you'd know I'm a cynical curmudgeon and kind of a dick. I've softened a bit as I've gotten older but overwhelming positivity, overbearing optimism, and general whimsy will always annoy me to my core (except in children...they'll have plenty of time for bitterness later). But a funny thing would happen almost every time I listened to that radio station - some upbeat pop song would worm its way inside my brain and fester there while I sang along like a slightly less stoned Whitney Houston (key differences being I can't sing and she's dead).
Anyway, what's the point you're probably asking and to that I say thanks for reading one of my reviews for the first time! My point is this: La La Land is a fun piece of fluff that danced around my brain for a couple days before starting to fade like so many Taylor Swift songs. It's the cinematic equivalent of "Blank Slate." Hell, I'd also wager that no one will be talking about La La Land in three years either (except to say "can you believe that won best picture?").
Now, I'm not totally immune to its charms. The leads are fun, the colors just POP, and the melancholy ending really made the film resonate more than I anticipated. Several clever "Hollywood" jokes landed and anytime Ryan Gosling is in an 80's style cover band I'm going to dig the shit out of it. And it was paced PERFECTLY (which helped mask how hollow and weightless most of the movie was, but I digress). At the end of the day the good stuff slowly faded like a fart in the wind, and I was hard-pressed to really latch on to anything substantial. Plus, musicals just aren't my bag. There's something about people doing day-to-day activities while singing that's always struck me as idiotic. I keep thinking about how ridiculous it would be to apply a musical aesthetic to life in my 20's:
Chad (sashays in from the left holding a broken bong):
Hey there Phil, were ya using the bong and singin a song todaaaaaaay?
I went to take a big puff
but I got rebuffed
and now I'm sober and rough...
Phil (snapping fingers, soft drumming starts):
why yes I was, why do ask?
I've just been sitting here finishing all my tasks.
If it happens to be broke don't look at meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,
if I had to guess it was your buddy Andyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
(spins in a circle, drops to knees, does the splits)
Chad (under a spotlight, still holding a broken bong):
Well listen up Phil, and Andy have a seat....
we're going to solve this mystery or no more treats.
I want a new bong, and I want it today,
and for the record Phil your shirt is fucking gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
(takes a full-speed run, jumps on the couch, trips and falls face first into a coffee table, shits pants)
Actually, that sounds pretty awesome. Except for calling Phil's shirt "gay." But this was a less evolved Chad S. Walsky and I'm a stickler for period authenticity. Sadly that shit was commonplace in the late 90's and Phil's shirt was undeniably flamboyant.
Anyway, I really don't mean to pile on La La Land. In fact, I had zero desire to see this and still gave it a positive review and I don't like musicals unless Trey Parker and Matt Stone are involved. I just think La La Land came along at the perfect time and really gave people a blast of fresh air during a dark stretch. And that's cool. But in a year that's giving us so many powerful movies I find it a little surprising that this is the probable best picture winner. But I'm not going to let that get to me....I'll just shake it off. Yep, shake it off. See, haters gonna hate-hate hate-hate-hate and players-gonna play-play-play-play-play and I'm just gonna shake it off.