Cinema Review: La La Land | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, June 4th, 2020  

La La Land

Studio: Lionsgate
Directed by Damien Chazelle

Dec 11, 2016 Web Exclusive
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La La Land is one of those movies made for people who love movies, which unfortunately speaks less to the quality of filmmaking than its referential nature. Specifically to '50s musicals like Singing in the Rain and My Fair Lady: films bursting at the seams with so much passion that it feels completely natural for its characters to express themselves via song and dance. And that’s the issue at the heart of La La Land, a story with so much indifference that the song-and-dance routines feel like poor attempts to inject energy and passion into lifeless characters and recycled plotting.

To be fair, this is not the case with half of the film’s romance, Mia, played wonderfully by Emma Stone. Despite being an A-lister, Stone has always maintained a humble, starry-eyed demeanor, which she uses to great advantage with Mia, an aspiring movie star suffering a crisis of confidence. She’s a good actress but can’t seem to crack an audition process that seems to value expediency over talent. At a bar one night, she sees piano player Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) break out in a bold jazz routine and immediately falls in love with such a bold expression. Seb, however, gives her the cold shoulder and repeatedly refuses her advances until a dance routine in the Hollywood Hills seemingly convinces him otherwise. After getting past the issue of her uninteresting, corporate boyfriend (who we’d never met until this point), the two seem on their way to living happily ever after, except for lthe ogistics facing the coupling of two independent artists.

Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash feels uninspired until its final act, which explores the dilemma facing two artists balancing their passions and commitments. The character of Sebastian is incredibly inconsistent, wavering between artistic idealist and coldhearted hired hand from scene-to-scene, and the fault lies equally with the writing and Gosling. Stone, however, is so captivating as an actor that we are somehow attentive and interested through lousy songwriting and cliches. By many accounts, she has a strong chance of winning the Oscar, and, despite the movie's flaws, it wouldn’t be undeserved.

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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Heather Essere
February 23rd 2017

I agree with your assessment of the overhyped, underdeveloped “La La Land” but your facts are lacking. “My Fair Lady” is not a ‘50s musical. It was released in 1964. This is something that’s easily checked. Seems like the benchmark for writing keeps getting lower—not just in the screenplay for “La La Land” but in journalism too.