feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
Nostalgia is without a doubt one of the key motivators in contemporary cinema, with left and right films attempting to reinvigorate the flame of the past onto its new audience, hooking onto the old, as well as the new. This was the result of the outstanding success of films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Artist, and Jurassic World, striking both sides of the spectrum, acting as a transitional model for something more. La La Land, however is not a franchise, but instead a love letter to the glorious musicals of cinema, ranging from the footsteps of Jacques Demy to Stanley Donen to Vincente Minnelli to Busby Berkeley.
I did admire the efforts of its director-writer Damien Chazelle in showcasing this sense of nostalgic passion to La La Land, a film that wraps itself around the eyes of dreamers, chasing after the passionate trembles of their hearts, hoping to attain the beautiful successes that has befallen their idols, to stand among them and be a significant part of history. Chazelle captures the same sense of passion of its characters in his much acclaimed film, Whiplash, but something felt missing here, and it seems to source in between Gosling and Stone’s shared development, the romantic factor that doesn’t get to bloom as much as it should, but Chazelle’s effort, along with his cast is undoubtedly palpable.
Gosling and Stone do bring forth that natural chemistry that has always existed in their past shared films, with nothing more than just their silent glances to convey to its audiences their internal emotional rumblings, requiring little of dialogue-driven exposition to refine their characterisation. However, Chazelle seems to be so determined in maintaining that familiarity of its nostalgia that unfortunately, the beats that this film would lay for its characters are rather too predictable, and complexity in their essence felt too dialled back for audiences to lean forward and seek out more of who these characters truly are.
Possibly such criticisms are just purely personal, as a I did not feel an emotional connection between myself and the film was deeply established, and it becomes more painful when so much of the film’s ingredients are within my wheelhouse. Sure, I can go on and express the impressiveness in its musical score, the songs that were passionately driven, and the alluring haze of its cinematography, but it all means far less than it would if that connection was present, where I find myself within the characters and empathise with their angsts and desires, but sadly I was detached enough, not completely mind you, that I was unable to be soaked in its supposed rich and warm beauty.
I doubt my opinion is going to turn any heads, and I don’t intend to push others away from ever seeing this, but I wanted to be honest in this write-up and simply not make excuses and compromises in order to remain with the loud and cheerful vocals of the masses. La La Land is one with its own set of strengths, but those strengths were not enough for me to be left at a complete awe and find my heart and mind in deep and meticulous investment with the happenings that took place on screen.