Damien Chazelle's LA LA LAND
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Great fun but with missed opportunities
La La land is a wonderfully entertaining bubble of a film. The stars are likable, the story is familiar, the music is pleasant, and the dance routines are fun to watch.
What I liked most is the focus on the characters, ably performed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers they’re not but, by golly, they put their hearts and souls into their boy-meets-girl roles and make you really care about them.
There is also a serious side to the film: all the "death of jazz" talk. I’m a jazz fan myself. If you listen to music streaming services these days and their "what's new" jazz streams, you may be disappointed, as I am, at how much "new" jazz sounds just like "old" jazz. One of the film’s character’s complaints to Gosling’s character that that's his problem, too.
A weakness of the film that may prevent it joining the ranks of great musicals is the music itself. The music is accessible and pleasant but is neither memorable nor inspired.
For a movie that takes place in the present day, too, the lack of South American, Latin, or African influences is a disappointment. I realize that the "throwback" aspects of the movie and its enjoyable obeisance to classic Hollywood song and dance musicals might be a reasonable explanation for this lack of cultural variety.
Still, given the focus of the movie on the main male character’s passionate relationship to jazz, this lack of attention to more diverse cultural influences on music represents a bit of a missed opportunity.
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald