Damien Chazelle’s ode to the classical era of Hollywood’s musicals in La La Land takes his viewers on a nostalgic trip for a good two hours – and while it runs, the pleasantness can be felt all the way through as if there were anything much more to ask. Where it needs to succeed, La La Land certainly manages to achieve its goal for Damien Chazelle’s aspiration to bring his own viewers back to such an era for Hollywood comes in with its own share of schmaltz and warmth – like films of said era. It’s nice to see one’s ode to something they love most in La La Land and maybe that was what was most important about the experience.
Ryan Gosling stars as the dreamer and jazz musician Sebastian and Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress seeking her glory. Soon enough with this pairing I thought to myself there was enough of a nod to Top Hat or Swing Time for their chemistry struck me in the manner that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had done so whenever the two dancers had always paired together, but not in such a blatant sense. They fall in love, the same old story comes by. Amidst the city of angels one can only find their rise with the many opportunities that come by, and Chazelle’s aim captures a perfect sense of general direction for such dreams and at the same time, pays his own love and respects for classical Hollywood cinema in the meantime.
That was perhaps one thing on my mind during La La Land where I wished something more could have risen. While Chazelle perfectly recreates the glory of such a glamorous city in his film there’s a point to which it relies upon nostalgia to a fault: we have nostalgia that perfectly recreates every last beat of what we love down to the bone, thus it walks through this glory without really living inside of the same feeling. It was almost like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris where we walk through an exhibit of beauty like Allen has taken us through France, and in a sense Chazelle does the same with Hollywood musicals. Yet with how much there is to explore with France in Midnight in Paris, it’s a bit difficult trying to walk through tons of musicals as they are on display yet live in the same glory trying to be itself. Midnight in Paris attunes itself finely, La La Land only to some extent.
All of the bright colours make for something beautiful for the eye, especially in capturing the same glory of the many colour palettes that classical-era Hollywood musicals have captured. La La Land likes to stick inside the shadow of films like Singin’ in the Rain within this manner – but what’s there to say about the musical numbers themselves? When coming down to the musical numbers, it was nice seeing how everything starts off with “Another Day in the Sun,” with the brightly-coloured dresses and a nice atmosphere coming out once the crowd starts dancing, but if I were to tell the truth, I wasn’t so fond of the song in itself – for it carries a good beat yet never did it really feel beyond that? The next number at least felt a bit more lively, although too many similar beats from the previous became far too obvious and hinders a lasting effect from rising from there.
In the sort of dream that La La Land lives within, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s chemistry are around to form the emotional ring it carries, though in some sense it feels lacking of the energy required for a greater impact, noting their lack of real interaction between one another (exchanges are all about passions being shown rather than actual talk). Unfortunately, their singing (together with the music of the film in general) is rather hit and miss, Ryan Gosling’s performance of “City of Stars” being the weakest number to come out as it feels empty as a whole with bland lyrics and a subpar singing voice. Emma Stone’s voice was nothing short of beautiful, for the moment her own number, “Audition,” had come by, there was a real sense of tragedy felt within herself that feels so perfect for the character. Emma Stone was already lovely enough as a aspiring naivete but this moment had come by and soon there was a new power that had risen.
Many moments of visual beauty in La La Land help in defining its place within a modern age for all around, it creates a sense of pretty nostalgia that turns into a pleasant enough ride. I want to give La La Land credit on the count that it was just exactly what it wanted to be, that sort of nostalgia trip through a classic era of Hollywood, for the liveliness and energy to which it presents, together with the chemistry of its leads so perfectly captures that spirit. It was certainly enough for me to enjoy the film to the degree that I did, but there are too many occasions to which I wish it could ever step out of the shadow it is living in. The best way of describing La La Land I can come up with, a truly helpful tour guide through a museum for classic Hollywood, but at the same time one who wants to jump out a bit much like an exhibit on display.
Watch the trailer right here.
Al images via Summit Entertainment.
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by Damien Chazelle
Produced by Fred Berger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 128 minutes