Wednesday 4 January 2017

La La Land ... Just blah

MUCH has been made about writer-director Damien Chazelle's La La Land, a tribute to the golden
age of Hollywood musicals set in present-day Los Angeles. It received seven Golden Globe nominations, and is expected to win comedy/musical best picture, best actress (Emma Stone) and for score at the award ceremony on Jan 8.
  Chazelle also wrote and directed Whiplash (2014).
  However, I found myself yawning midway through La La Land. The opening one-shot piece set in a congested LA highway didn't get my juices going. It looks like any other dance music video, I thought to myself.

   Getting to know the two principal actors also didn't get my juices flowing. Stone and Ryan Gosling are two popular and talented actors appearing together for the third time. I have a soft spot for the beautiful Stone, and was impressed by her role in Birdman (2014), for which she received an Oscar Best Supporting Actress nomination.
   She plays Mia, who stays with three housemates and works as a barista on a film lot, and who faces many rejections in film auditions. Where have heard of this before?
    Her romantic partner is suave jazz pianist Sebastian (Gosling), who has a reputation for being
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling look to the future.
difficult and who dreams of opening a jazz bar. Where have heard of this before?
   The songs are moderately entertaining and the dances, well, some high-school dances are more engrossing.
   Neither Stone and Gosling can sing well and it wasn't easy listening to them. I'd also expected more rigorous and complex dance performances, but my amateur salsa performances are on a par with theirs.
   Mia doesn't have a challenging role in the film, although she rises to the occasion in the expected argument scene.
   Chazelle's believe in the power of jazz is expressed through Gosling's Sebastian.
  Sebastian says that people in LA worship everything but they don't value anything. He's down and out on his luck when he says: "I'm letting life hit me until I hit back."
    Mia ask him about people like herself, whose only knowledge of jazz is Kenny G and elevator music.
   Sebastian says that jazz is dying but he will fight the decline by having his own club to play the music he likes.
  Singer John Legend appears as Keith, who offers Sebastian a job with his touring jazz band. Legend is also an executive producer of the film and co-wrote Start A Fire, which appears in the film.
  Legend does something interesting in this film. His character challenges Sebastian.
Stone, John Legend and Stone try to jazz up the film.
  "How are you going to save jazz? ... You're holding on to the past but jazz is about the future."
   Sebastian finds some success with Keith's band and his words to Mia reveal the conflict aspiring musicians have in wanting to achieve fame and critical success. "I'm finally in something that people like."
   It was hard to sit through La La Land, but I wish it all the best and hope it hits the high notes in the awards season.

2½ out of 5 stars



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