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Overall Rating
3.1

Awesome: 19.05%
Worth A Look: 9.52%
Average: 33.33%
Pretty Bad38.1%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings


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La La Land
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by Jay Seaver

"This movie about making it in the movies has more songs, fewer stories."
3 stars

I’m moderately curious what Damien Chazelle’s "La La Land" will look like on a second viewing, because there’s something about it that doesn’t quite click on the first: It’s got moments of delight and wit, and it certainly looks great, exactly the way a traditional musical brought into the twenty-first century should. It’s just hard to shake the feeling that it’s an assembly of pieces of movies that Chazelle would like to make and emulate rather than something truly its own.

It is, at its heart, a love story between Mia (Emma Stone), a would-be actress chasing down auditions while working at the Starbucks on the Warner Brothers lot, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a piano player who dreams of opening his own jazz club. Their paths cross a couple of times before they actually talk long enough to see how in sync they are in a sarcastic but not particularly mean-spirited exchange. As the interchangeable Los Angeles seasons pass, he joins an old classmate’s ensemble despite it not exactly being traditional jazz, and she decides to write her own one-woman show.

This is kind of familiar territory, and Chazelle doesn’t bring a lot of new, interesting details to it. An early conversation with Sebastian’s never-glimpsed-again sister can be summarized as “does this girl you want to set me up with like jazz, because that is the one thing that defines me as a character?”, and Mia’s soon-to-be-dumped boyfriend and the other couple they’re having dinner with are the laziest business-buzzword-mouthing placeholders imaginable. The L.A. and showbiz jokes feel recycled, only occasionally having a new punchline. The film often seems to coast on its leads for the “Spring” and “Summer” legs, but when it has to introduce conflict and challenges for the relationship, what the audience gets hardly feels personal, leading to some last-act back-and-forthing and what feels like the end of one Jacques Demy film tacked onto another.

And yet, when you put Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in the middle of this, it becomes pretty darn charming. This in spite of Gosling being at least Chazelle’s third male lead to play a musician obsessed with his art to the point that he alienates the people around him; lines that could come off as abrasive and arrogant instead show a certain self-awareness, and he’s able to give the part an entertaining physicality at times, like when he jumps a bit at seeing someone else inside his apartment. Stone, meanwhile, gets enjoyably sarcastic dialogue to counter her character’s frustration, especially as she plays audition scenes with a certain amount of arch absurdity, though she can quickly go to genuine surprise that things are not happening. Paired off, Chazelle has them needle each other and always show that they each still have a core that believes good things are possible for them.

With La La Land being a musical, they don’t have to just show this with dialogue and body language, and in fact they shouldn’t. This isn’t Chazelle’s first go-round with the form, and he and choreographer Mandy Moore are fairly good with the mechanics of it while cinematographer Linus Sandgren shoots these scenes nicely. Even if Stone and Gosling aren’t the sort of Gene Kelly-type dancers where you build scenes around showing what they can do, they seem capable, and there’s an energy to the production numbers that is too rarely seen on-screen these days (well, outside of Indian movies). It is, perhaps, a little telling that the musical number that does the best job of getting an idea across visually is the one meant to be pointing out what a tacky stage show the band Sebastian is playing with puts on, and how it literally pushes Mia away. The jumping from idea to idea hurts the film a little, as something like the film’s fast-paced epilogue (in its way, as energetic as the Whiplash finale) can seem a little muted by the feeling that the film and filmmakers didn’t quite put in the work necessary to have this emotional payoff.

Maybe, on a second viewing, the foundations will seem clearer, but in some ways "La La Land" just may not be able to get over the fact that it’s a nostalgic film made by young people, and despite the great care put in and often delightful moments that come out, it often seems as much of an imitation of someone else’s love letter to Los Angeles, jazz, and the movies as it does Chazelle’s own.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=29071&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/09/17 06:55:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 New York Film Festival For more in the 2016 New York Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Venice Film Festival For more in the 2016 Venice Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Telluride Film Festival For more in the 2016 Telluride Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 AFI Film Festival For more in the 2016 AFI Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Savannah Film Festival For more in the 2016 Savannah Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2016 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Denver Film Festival For more in the 2016 Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/08/17 Crystal X Derivative and insular, tries very hard to charm 3 stars
8/23/17 Barbara Leaf Pap and sap and the dancing isn't very good. Eh! 2 stars
7/07/17 stephen wonderfully entertaining, accessible, and gorgeous. unmissable. 5 stars
4/14/17 Elizabeth Ryan's a better dancer than singer. ;) Good chemistry (3rd film together). 4 stars
2/20/17 Tony Ferguson Really great and the best film of 2016. 5 stars
2/18/17 Wendell Corey Louise, are you a gorgeous babe with incredible knockers and an unbelievable arse ! ?. 5 stars
1/16/17 Louise Seaver's review accurate. Prefer musicals made back in the day but an admirable effort. 4 stars
1/10/17 Bob Dog I love musicals, but I didn't really like this movie much. 2 stars
1/01/17 Edler I don't like musicals, but I really like this movie a lot. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  09-Dec-2016 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2017

UK
  N/A

Australia
  09-Dec-2016
  DVD: 25-Apr-2017


Directed by
  Damien Chazelle

Written by
  Damien Chazelle

Cast
  Emma Stone
  Ryan Gosling



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