Picoreview: La La Land

Picoreview: La La Land: either too much reality or too much fantasy, but either way, a total failure to succeed.

La La Land is billed as “the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore.” This is not accurate. This is the kind of movie Hollywood never made. It is not a slick, charming Hollywood movie musical. Neither is it a Hollywood style dreams-meet-reality drama. It attempts to be both, and succeeds at neither.

I’m not much of a Ryan Gosling fan. I understand he’s apparently an extremely nice person, which is wonderful, but I find his screen presence somewhat less compelling than that of, say, mashed potatoes. I went to La La Land anyway, in the hopes that this would be the movie–because it was a movie musical, how could it not!–that would convert me to Gosling fandom.

I was instead reminded of a review my father once endured, which went something like this: “Murphy played the part quietly. So quietly, in fact, that occasionally one looked at him on the stage, and wondered what he was doing there.”

I cannot imagine, save for the fact that Gosling is apparently a really nice guy, and evidently plays the piano well, why anybody has been inspired to nominate him for awards for this movie, much less actually give them to him. He danced moderately well and could perhaps have done more, given the chance. He sang in a range between poor and inadequate, although I’m given the impression that Gosling *can* sing, so I have no idea why he didn’t do it well.

Emma Stone, of whom I’m quite fond, was slightly better, if for no other reason than, as an aspiring actress, we got to see her go through several auditions and thus perform a wider range of emotions. She had one knockout song, but performed the rest of her songs in a tiny breathless little voice that I can only presume was meant to set us up for a Big Wow when she belted out the good song, but which in fact made me spend most of the movie feeling like they should have cast somebody who sang a lot better than that, if they were going to do a movie musical.

There are a handful of very nice scenes. The big opening number isn’t one of them. The obligatory dream scene dance at the observatory (which delighted me going in to it, because movie musicals should always have a dream scene dance if they possibly can) *was* one of them, except for the fact that the entire *dance* part of it was done in cutaway silhouettes, leaving me feeling like Gosling and Stone had probably not actually been the performers in it. I mean, they may have been, I don’t know, but the impression left was that they were not.

The final number was *exactly* what La La Land is pitched as being: a movie like Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. For five minutes, Gosling had charm, he and Stone had chemistry, the production quality was slick and musical-like, and I had hopes that they were going to have a last-minute hail mary that would make me almost (almost) forgive the rest of the movie.

They followed it up by blowing it entirely. What they did was fine for the romantic drama film version of the movie they were making. In the dramatic film version of that movie, I would have really enjoyed the way they ended the story.

It was an utterly shite ending for a musical, totally failing to understand the structure and payoff of a musical movie structure.

Aside from what I’ve seen described as the self-congratulatory-Hollywoodness of it all, I cannot imagine why the film is on the awards circuit. It felt like a misfire from beginning to end, and I wish they’d made one of the two movies they tried cramming into this one. Either would have been a lot more satisfying than what they ended up with.