kailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
me lying sick in bed, curled up under blankets, watching emma stone and ryan gosling dance together: is this free serotonin?
i loved this in spite of myself. i was already envisioning trashing it in the first five minutes for being inauthentic and cheesy and all too ready to ape old MGM musicals without understanding their charm... i was a fool. damien chazelle understands their charms all too well. understands that at the heart of musicals is something BIG and fantastical and larger than life. people burst! into song because their feelings are too ginormous for us mere mortals to understand and they fall in love easily because love is love!
it's so sentimental and gooey and romantic that i didn't expect it to be deeply sad, despite knowing the ending beforehand. i'm always going to be a sucker for romances that don't work out. wrong time, wrong place, wrong people.... sometimes being in love with each other isn't going to be enough. sometimes all you're going to have left is "what could have beens". maybe if she was a little less insecure, maybe if he was a little less demanding... well, all i can say is that last sequence left me sniffling. why don't things just work out the way you want them to?!?!?
addressing some elephants in the room, yeah... that whole "white man wants to saves jazz" plotline isn't something that plays well in either 2016 or 2019. however, while that continues to be a fair critique, i think the movie happens to be critical of this mindset. ryan gosling's character is presented as pretentious and obstinate and the john legend character is actually given quite an understandable defense for his version of jazz. emma gosling admits she likes this new updated jazz. legend himself tells ryan that jazz needs to keep evolving for people to want to listen to it and he can offer no rebuttal against that. how long is his jazz club actually going to stay open? chazelle seems to undercut his success with a melancholy understanding that nothing can stay the same forever.
what can i say? it hit all my soft-spots (it even made me like la). the power of musicals is that they dare to dream. sometimes it's nice to be reminded of that.