La La Land

La La Land ★★★½

I was super into musicals as a child. As I grew out of Disney films, my mother figured I would like musicals because I liked Disney soundtracks and the Sissi films, so she got me the soundtracks to 'The Sound of Music', and 'Singin' in the Rain' and 'My Fair Lady' and 'West Side Story'. I adored them. As I found my way back to film after an music-loving adolescence, few films had as visceral an effect on me as Jacques Demy's 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg'.

Technicolor and tunes, I couldn't ask for more. Musicals for me are the best marriage between cinema and music, the two great loves of my life. Nothing gets me weeping like a good film, or a good song, but I'm kind of pained over how this film left me unconvinced.

Now, I like Emma Stone, and I like Ryan Gosling, and I remember loving them together in 'Crazy Stupid Love', but I just didn't really buy into their romance here. They're both enjoyable on screen here, but there's an odd lack of.... chemistry? They're both professional enough to pass, but their characters are not written well enough to inspire the kind of investment that makes me well up at a screenshot of empty Thonet chairs. I was ready to swoon, but it was too stop-and-start of a film.

I'm almost afraid to say this because this is such a widely acclaimed film, but I found it kind of half-assed. You'll have a tough job trying to find a 2016 release that looks better than this one, but the script is severely lacking, and even the song and dance numbers are a bit done-by-half. Some dance moves here, some lines sung there, but when it gets down to it, we'll move to silhouette so we can get the real hoofers in. Or we'll get John Legend to sing a tune. There's about 30 minutes of the film, the second half of the second act, where the whole "magic of technicolor cinema" is kind of forgotten in favour of some half-hearted regurgitation of 'Whiplash''s themes.

I was all in until the film started rehashing the "art for art's sake"-discussions of Chazelle's previous film. Mia dislikes Seb's decision to tour with a popular band he's not fully invested in (as if touring is the most permanent sign-your-soul-away-contract there is - ha!), but then gives up on her acting dream after six years of auditions for crappy TV and one performance of her one-woman-show? Hmm.

The relationship between Seb and Mia is cute, but highly episodic and hardly worthy of that great epilogue number - symbolic of the film, really. Those last 10 minutes make the previous 120 worthwhile, but overall it's a lot of beautifully-shot-but-overlong mediocrity for 10 exquisite last minutes.

If this had had substance in its plot, this could have been amazing, with little dance number gems tucked away to elevate the film to a next level. I enjoyed large bits of it (give me a Flock of Seagulls joke and I will cackle embarrassingly), and it does look stunning (I love the way it plays around with those old school painted backgrounds), but I was expecting more.

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