La La Land ★★★½

Giving the many favorable invocations of Demy, I was eagerly anticipating La La Land's breathtaking opening sequence and a heartrending bittersweet ending. But I really wasn't satisfied by either. The opening's cinematographic choreography was engaging enough, but the dance choreography seemed more like jumbled group parkour exercise than Hollywood musical showcase.

Umbrellas of Cherbourg and West Side Story set the standard for bittersweet musicals in my book. In those films the gritty real world tragically transforms the characters-- even the supporting characters -- who are all enraptured by the pursuits of their dreams and desires. So I hoped La La's ending would be gutsy, heartbreaking.

Alas, here it's all about star-crossed millennials Mia (a doe-eyed actress who earnestly auditions through a gauntlet of rejections) and Sebastian (a curmudgeonly Jazz aficionado yearning to make jazz great again). She swooshes through the LA in a Prius; he blares through town in a gas-guzzling Buick convertible as they pursue their dreams enabled by cardboard supporting characters (many of color) and (I'm loath to say it) white privilege.

Though I enjoyed the sequences in which they danced upon the waters and among the stars (MGM's Singing in the Rain and Pixar's Wall-E set the high standard respectively) and the telescoping spotlight effect, I really can't express how disappointed I was by the Hollywood hollowness of the ending.

My two girls are allergic to cinematic and televised kissing as, for now. Over the years we've been feasting on a fairly steady diet of musicals: Astaire & Rogers, Gene Kelly, Glee. My youngest (almost 8) mostly enjoyed the dancing parts, the film really sags in the middle parts when Chazelle seemed to forget he's directing a Hollywood musical. My eldest (almost 10) seems to be awakening to the positive possibility of romance, but kissing remains yucky.

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