This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Ryan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I would just like to say that I gain no pleasure from having the contrarian opinion. I mostly go into every film with an open mind and and an optimistic view of enjoyment. So now onto the movie then.
I know I just said I go in with an open mind, but by God what the hell was that monstrosity of an opening. It makes Step Up look like a masterpiece. Filmed in one take for what reason? It adds nothing of value. The emphasis should be on well choreographed sequences in front of the camera, not behind it. It inevitably was a very shaky start.
First and foremost La La Land is a simple story with relatable characters and decent performances told through interesting framing and quality set pieces. It's a homage to musicals of eras gone by. The thesis of this movie is about what you have to sacrifice to make those movie dreams come true. It's a fairytale that's supposed to have a dark, real tinge to it. Except they didn't really need to sacrifice the relationship they were in. They could've made it work, or at the very least tried more than a five minute conversation on a bench where they act like it's a foregone conclusion. They sacrificed it because that's what the script demanded. All the conflicts seem forced and artificial. And just because a film is a homage doesn't mean it can't be boring when it lapses into cliche. Damien Chazelle could've done more to break the mold to make the idea hit home in an interesting way. But he didn't and the movie end up being rather safe and boring.
The first act of the film was a musical then in the second act the film seems to forget it was a musical and was simply a regular drama. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say this is due to Chazelle's desire to create a contemporary take on the genre. More overzealous fans would call it a deconstruction of the genre, but that would be a incorrect use of the term and they'd just be blowing smoke out of their asses.
I was disappointed by the ending. Throughout the film there is a theme of contrast between dreams and reality. The ending felt like it was supposed to be the waking up to the harsh truth, but both getting their big dreams fulfilled goes against that. The 'what if' sequence looks dazzling, but it was bit of a cop out, like the director wants his cake and eat it - it left me feeling a bit cheated.
Chazelle should drop his composer buddy like he did with Miles Teller. He's mediocre and his movies would improve with an actually talented musician, especially if your movie has such an emphasis on music. You could really see the mediocrity in majority of the music when we hear the John Legend song. His performance blows everything out of the water, now that's talent. It's ironic that a film that speaks so highly of "pure" jazz having its best musical moment come from a synth jazz combo.
Throughout the film I was thinking about other films and how I'd much rather watch them instead. So why don't we go through it then:
-During the opening monstrosity I thought about Step Up, but then I remembered that they're are mostly shit anyway, but at least the choreography is better.
-During the song with Mia and all her friends I instantaneously thought of Grease. If you've seen Grease then you'd know exactly what scene I was thinking about.
-When the timeline overlapped and Mia stumbled in on Seb playing I recalled how that was much better done in Begin Again.
-When Seb plays his piano piece and the spotlight falls and him I thought of Ray
-When Seb and Mia have their first conversation with Gosling being his usual charming self I thought about Crazy, Stupid, Love.
-There was a lamppost and Gosling literally spun around it. How can I not think about Singing in Rain.
-When Seb and Mia were walking around the Warner Bros. Studio lot where everyone seems to be filming a 50s movie I thought of how better off I'd be rewatching Hail Caesar.
-When they are in the cinema watching Rebel Without A Cause I wanted to watch that too. I haven't seen it before and that felt like the appropriate time.
-When Seb and Mia were in the bedroom and the lighting resembled and Gallo film I thought of Suspira.
-When John Legend sings I just wanted to go watch one of his concerts. I know it's not a movie, but whatever.
-The final scene has some strong comparisons to Cafe Society. Girl gets married and has her Hollywood life. Guy gets his successful club. But they don't end up with each other.
I have a suspicion that the film is a metaphor for Damien Chazelle's sex life. The excessive use of purple in the colour palate indicating sexual repression, all the songs ending too earlier signalling premature ejaculation which is the root cause of his sexual repression and now he's reached his dream like Seb and just like him he's all alone with nobody to share in his success. Or if could just be talking out of my ass, that seems more likely.
It's well crafted, and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are charming so it's nearly impossible to hate the film, I was just really disappointed. It's cynical in intension, not really providing any substance and acting as very simple academy award fodder, almost to a shamless level. Hollywood loves films that love Hollywood.