La La Land has garnered acclaim before its worldwide release.
The hype isn’t exactly empty if you are a fan of musicals. From the moment Emma Stone dances in the street with a Jacques Demy inspired dress, it’s evident that La La Land is a homage. The movie’s themes are a modern spin of its predecessors as it deals with change (Singing in the Rain) and portrays the opposing fate of its leads (A Star is Born).
Damien Chazelle’s skill behind the camera keeps things engaging. He excels in capturing movement and creating moments.
In one sequence the camera jumps into the pool to land at the center of a song and dance number. It spins until everything becomes a blur and then cuts to a lone Mia standing in an empty spot where her towed car had been. Left with no choice, she walks through the empty streets and meets Sebastian.
La La Land is filled with this deftly assembled sequences that mix intricate and minimal visuals with the help of detailed production design and performers. And of course, there are whip pan scenes.
While La La Land provides all the thrills of its genre, it has empty prestige.
It’s a predictable tale packed with retro elements to entice Oscar judges with the power of nostalgia – the CinemaScope title card, three-color Technicolor palette, and references to classic musical films.
There’s nothing much to its lead characters apart from show business cliches. Mia is a struggling actress who works as a barista. Sebastian is a struggling musician who wants to save jazz (a white narrative that’s conveniently drowned out by the Oscar buzz).
Emma Stone steals the show, but the movie could have benefited from stronger triple threats. The freeway opening number is spectacular even though it looks like a Gap ad and remains unmatched for the rest of the movie.
As La La Land ends with a what-could-have-been fantasy medley that cinephiles would recognize from An American in Paris, it’s clear that the movie is just a musical throwback with a couple who have little in common and can’t make a compromise.
Personally I can’t help but think of what could have happened if it had a black character who’s in the perfect position to save jazz in a time of auto-tuned hip hop. And what could have this looked like next to a determined actress in a time where feminism and diversity are sold as a product.
La La Land is a well-directed throwback nonetheless.
La La Land
La La Land is a delightful throwback backed by earnest performances and deft directorial choices but offers nothing more than its superficial thrills.