NSlater90’s review published on Letterboxd:
I definitely like it, that much is for sure. Just how much remains to be seen.
I'll start with the positives. Despite all the aesthetic shenanigans, once you get to the core of the film it is just a simple love story. The sort of convenient yet satisfying love story that doesn't really exist, but you care about anyway.
It's also a film about passion. About having ambition and that fire of creativity and inspiration inside you, and not letting that go out. About pursuing your dreams and not giving up and joining the 'real world'. I found it inspiring, I wanted to make music, to listen to Jazz, to express myself in some way artistically.
I think the film is definitely carried by it's two leads. I've always been fond of Emma Stone. I always find she has the ability to convey emotion and make you care for her characters in such a subtle and nuanced way. Just the slightest change of facial expression can be heartbreaking. Similarly Gosling is very charismatic which is exactly what a film like this needs.
Now onto stuff I'm less sure about.
I found the film quite self aware. There were a couple of times that I felt like the film was basically explaining to the audience why they like it. I think Gosling's character says words to the effect 'people like nostalgia' at one point. I can't decide if it's a fun nod and a wink, or if it cheapens it and makes it feel insincere.
I wasn't overly sold on the msuical elements of the film either. Not that they were bad, far from it, but they felt like little short films forced into what is otherwise a pretty conventional film. Take out the songs, add in some existential nihilism and you've basically got a Woody Allen film. (infact, I'm pretty sure there was a Midnight In Paris reference towards the end, and Emma Stone's character goes to an observatory like in Magic In The Moonlight).
I think because of that, certain emotional moments didn't have quite the impact I felt they should.
Take Les Miserables, the recent musical adaptation. I find that converts emotion wonderfully well as it sets out it's stall and sticks to it. But I think because La La Land just dips into it, it's ever so slightly jarring and takes us out of the emotion of a scene.
I was left feeling like Damien Chazelle would probably make a brilliant advert.
I also thought it lost momentum in it's final act. As great as that last montage was, I felt the film was sort of beginning to drag, and felt like it didn't really know how to finish, so it just went on a bit longer.
But inspite of all that, I still enjoyed it a lot. It's very feel good, very inspiring, there's just those little niggles in my mind that make me question it. I've put 4.5 stars, but I think I'd like a second watch before committing to that.