REVIEW | La La Land (2016)
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and John Legend; written and directed by Damien Chazelle
Review by Mark David Major

(Film blurb begins) Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. (Film blurb ends)

What to make of La La Land (2016)? It is a mixed bag, to say the least (the very least). The presence of Emma Stone keeps afloat this film. The camera clearly loves her, especially a dancing Emma Stone. I would have been happy with two hours of dancing Emma Stone. On the other hand, honestly, Stone’s singing voice is pleasant but noticeably weak. For the most part, talking Ryan Gosling is charming (if a bit of a dick on occasion). Dancing Gosling is OK, too. However, a singing Gosling is an excruciatingly experience, which can only be described as causing unwanted painful injury to the ear.

What about the music? Well, we have to make some distinctions. La La Land‘s non-vocal compositions composed by Justin Hurwitz are actually pretty good. The best singing performance is a song reserved for John Legend. When Legend’s ‘fictional band’ plays on-screen, the film briefly soars as a music video. Then, there are the showtunes, which are really not good and eminently forgettable (one can only hope). As for the story and direction by Damien Chazelle, it is uneven. The best scene involves Emma Stone pretending to lip sync to “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls and the best joke references said song a few moments later. Honestly, when the best songs with lyrics in a musical are 80s cover songs (in a pool party scene, no less), then the showtunes component of your musical is not up to snuff. The ‘conflict’ brewing between the two principals about two-thirds into the film is completely contrived melodrama. Here is a quick summary:

Stone: You’re not following your dream.
Gosling: No, you’re not following your dream.
Stone: I know you’re not but what am I?
Gosling: I’m rubber and you’re glue…

La La Land continually hints at a charm that it utterly fails to achieve, dropping it into the lower-middle tier of Hollywood musicals. So yes, La La Land is overrated. However, as a promotional film for Los Angeles tourism, it is quite good. Mark’s Grade: C

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