Sunday, 15 January 2017
#8 LA LA LAND
Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Budget $30 million. Running time 128 minutes. Certificate 12A.
The all singing, all dancing story of what happens when a middling actress meets a failed jazz musician on the crumbling streets of LA. Cue a handful of unmemorable songs and some so-so dance routines. I so, so wanted to LA-LA-love this film, I've been looking forward to it for ages and went in with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I left over two hours later with a sense of what could have been, or more importantly what should have been with a cast as charismatic as this, and with a director as good as he is. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why this film didn't click with me, but there's something missing for sure.
Certainly the critics love this and it's sweeping up the awards, but after a weekend that included Manchester By Sea this just feels a little flat in comparison. It never leaps, it never reaches the stars it keeps singing about. None of the dance numbers have any of the gloriousness of the old musicals it so wants to emulate. It starts strong and the story structure starts off interesting enough, telling the story in tandem, from each of the young lover's point of view. But there comes a point where it sort of just putt-putts when is should have zinged!
Maybe the camera should have pulled back a little more, maybe the songs should have been more surreal. I longed for a studio set and found all the locations a little uninspiring, that said we do get one studio set song and dance number and all that does is to reinforce what we're missing and that frustrated me. As always with this sort of tale, boy meets girl, falls in love with girl then loses girl and so it is with this. However, late in the third act when, after a break of five years, our two lover's worlds collide again and all the magic and love we've experienced up till that point totally disappear. It's hard to accept her life choices when opportunity knocked or to accept that she would have just forgotten her old life so completely, but she does. A glimpse of what could have been if only their first meeting had ended with a kiss just sort of reinforces what a missfire the ending of this film is.
All that said, this is still a fun film, but perhaps a little too long. Both leads are terrific, Ryan shines and Emma Stone is the living embodiment of perky and their chemistry sings. But the story ultimately lets this down. I was reminded of the wonderful silent black and white movie The Artist of 2011 that for me perfectly captured the magic of the bygone days.
This should have been a delight but sadly for me it just sort of tripped up.