La La Land is a romantic comedy musical about a barista dreaming of becoming a Hollywood actress named Mia (Emma Stone) and a jazz pianist dreaming of having his own club named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who fell in love with each other while struggling for their respective dreams.
When I wrote my list for top 20 movies of 2016, La La Land was one of the movies I mentioned which I thought will make the list if I got the chance of watching during the year. Well, after finally seeing it, it would indeed make the list – at number 20 (knocking The Shallows out). But, since I would have given the second spot to Arrival, then La La Land would be essentially removed from the list, demoting it to the “Honorable Mentions” part.
I liked La La Land. But I didn’t like it with the same degree as many. It’s just that, I came into this movie expecting an overwhelmingly fantastic musical (which others probably deem to be so). Actually, I became intrigued of this movie because the buzz made it seem that it’s one of the greatest musicals ever made. But, if I may be honest, I don’t think it is that great.
Sure, there are commendable things about it. I love that it’s filmed in CinemaScope, and that it has single-take sequences – as it attempts to replicate the style of a 50’s musical film production. But, evaluating it as a musical, though the music is fine, none of the musical numbers really resonated with me. I didn’t find them as magical as those from classic musical films. It doesn’t really have sequences that I would want to watch over and over again, or songs that I would want to put in my playlist. As for the dancing, Gosling and Stone are good. Their dance scenes are well-choreographed and well-executed. But, in my opinion, these lack the sense of being organic performances – it feels like Gosling and Stone aren’t used to being filmed doing dance numbers. Or maybe I was just expecting too much – expecting Gosling and Stone to pull off an impeccable “Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire” kind of dancing chemistry. Also, whenever I felt I was finally starting to dig a dance sequence, it ends.
As for the story, well, I’m not really a big fan of romantic comedies in the first place. I sometimes like them. But, as a rule, I rarely seek watching them. However, I appreciate the themes that the rom com aspect of La La Land has. I like the “dream vs. love” and “celebrating creativity” overtones that it has. (Some SPOILERS from here onwards.) The respective arcs of Mia – the aspiring actress experiencing endless audition rejections before catching her big break – and Sebastian – the struggling musician being forced to give up his serious musical philosophy for the sake of financial stability – are kind of clichéd. But their arc as a couple is definitely refreshing. The last twenty minutes of this movie – the climax and resolution of their arc – is poignantly beautiful.
A lot of people love La La Land, and it’ll probably win a lot of awards. I understand. It’s a very well-crafted film indeed. And I was definitely entertained. But that’s just the thing: I was expecting to be overwhelmed; it just entertained.