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Overall Rating
3.06

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 33.33%
Pretty Bad38.89%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 6 user ratings


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La La Land
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by Rob Gonsalves

"The latest overrated Oscar-eater."
2 stars

Is the Hollywood musical worth saving? There may be a compelling argument to be made for it, but "La La Land," I’m afraid, isn’t it.

The movie is popular and is supposedly on track to win a tub of Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s full of music and color, but otherwise it’s a thin and glittery shell with a lot of hollowness at its center. It’s about two young wanna-be entertainers, actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), trying to make it in Los Angeles. They fall in love, but conflicts about artistic integrity threaten their idyll; during one such squabble, I thought, Jeez, I don’t know that I was in the mood to watch New York, New York again.

That Martin Scorsese musical, a flop when first released, still boasts a level of emotional ambition that seems well beyond La La Land. The story is almost offensively simple and streamlined, even though the movie weighs in at a punitive two hours and seven minutes. Sebastian, who dreams of owning his own jazz club, is set up as the white boy who alone can appreciate good music — he certainly appreciates it more than does the slick Keith (John Legend), whose successful, bland-pop band Sebastian is obliged to join to make some money. Mia shows some acting chops in an interrupted audition, but it’s a measure of the movie’s itchy impatience — and that of its young writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) — that when Mia rents out theater space and performs her one-woman show, we don’t see any of it.

No, Chazelle would rather stage elaborate musical numbers, many of which glisten with unmistakable flop sweat. In classic musicals, we didn’t feel (though we could infer) the hard labor that went into the music and the choreography. Here, I kept imagining how many brutal takes must have been necessary to nail such sequences as the meant-to-be-a-wow opener, set on an L.A. freeway. The movie keeps stopping dead for numbers that seem meant simultaneously to honor and to outdo the musicals of yore, with crescendos and fireworks; for a while, we get one climax after another, so it’s not surprising that the film burns itself out fairly quickly, with an hour or so left to go. Gosling and Stone try, but they just don’t speak the language of musicals natively or fluently. We’re put in the position of assessing their crooning or belting as talented amateurs.

La La Land is being predicted (even by its detractors) as the big Oscar winner because, like the equally meretricious The Artist of a few years ago, it pays loving, moist-eyed tribute to The Magic of Movies. (A clip from Rebel Without a Cause provides a few seconds of reprieve from this movie’s faux-classic scheme.) It’s comparable to old Hollywood in at least one significant way: its vision is blindingly white, with John Legend brought in to play a black music star who just isn’t as serious about black music as a white man is. This, apparently, is the sort of thing that passed muster over the six years of writing and revising that it took Chazelle to bring La La Land to the screen.

For all that, for all the time and effort the movie took, very little passion comes through. Technically it’s whiz-bang — sometimes it unavoidably comes off as “Hey look Ma, I’m a director!” — but it’s an empty truffle, all sweet surface but nothing inside. A white-chocolate truffle, at that.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=29071&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/16/17 10:08:11
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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

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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