So I’ve finally had a chance to see one of the most highly anticipated films of the year – La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle! It was definitely one I enjoyed on first viewing, and I have now had a chance to gather some thoughts on the film in the more detailed aspects of it. Just a warning – this post will contain spoilers so don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens!
My first impression of this film was that it was enjoyable, and definitely something different. For those who don’t know, the story follows a young man, Seb (Ryan Gosling), who’s life dream it is to set up an old time jazz club, and a woman, Mia (Emma Stone), who’s been trying to make it as an actress, as they have a series of chance encounters over a number of months and take an immediate dislike of each other. Over the following period, this slowly changes to like before they fall in love, and as seasons pass they both seem to be getting their life on track, Mia writing a one woman show and Seb joining a modern jazz fusion band and going on tour. However, they soon come to realise that their intense relationship may be what’s holding them back from succeeding at their dreams.
There were many things I likes about this movie. The visuals throughout were incredibly impressive, which was one of my favourite parts. These visuals to me were reminiscent of that of Baz Luhrmann, or Wes Anderson stylistically. I also really appreciated some of the camera choices, which also had that Wes Anderson vibe. The “old hollywood” style really paid off once it got into the swing of itself, particularly towards the end. The story did get interesting at the climax, and I did find myself drawn into wondering at the outcome. There was one particular sequence at the end which begins with Seb playing “their song” at the piano depicts Sebastian and Mia’s relationship as it could have been. I was wondering what was going on, as it performs a pretty bizarre switch between reality and a surreal musical theatre progression, but then there was a moment when I just got it – if they had stayed together neither of their dreams would have actually happened. The alternation between reality and surreal dreamland really does pay off at this point. Also not to be forgotten is John Legend’s performance – his songs were the most memorable of the film, and this was his first acting role!
However, at the end of the day something about the story didn’t add up. I think the problem was in the first quarter – the story between the characters just wasn’t made believable. At this stage in the movie there were too many assumptions made that the viewer would piece together what was going on, and there was no chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. They hated each other, and then suddenly they loved each other – not much explanation other than that. The energy in the opening number feels off – Bollywood, rather than Hollywood, unnatural feeling and not particularly memorable.
The old hollywood style that pays off at the end comes off as too cheesy at the beginning. There were characters introduced, and conversations which had no bearing on the plot at all and had no further explanation, such as Seb’s sister appearing for one scene and then disappearing for the rest of the film. Neither of the leads were particularly good singers – which I didn’t mind, as they were obviously cast for their acting abilities – but neither was anyone else in the film. The group numbers consisted purely of wishy – washy airy voices. Yes, they can all hold a tune, but the only cast member with any wow factor beyond that was John Legend. Ultimately, this is a beautiful movie with incredible cinematography, but does it live up to the hype beyond that? That fact it debatable.
My verdict is; this movie is good – it could have been great.
What did you think of La La Land?