La La Land (2016)

There is nothing like a great movie musical – and La La Land is nothing like a great movie musical. This ambitious yet inert mess seems to grab a dozen different styles from classic musicals, but fails to find its own personality.

Set on the fringes of Los Angeles’ entertainment scene, the story focuses on the rocky relationship between would-be barista and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and the obsessed jazz musician Seb (Ryan Gosling). She is an endless skein of embarrassing auditions for mediocre roles in worthless film and television productions while he is pursuing a jazz apotheosis that has no contemporary audience. Their relationship is strictly Movie 101 Cute and you don’t need to be Miss Cleo to predict how it all turns out.

One wishes – indeed, one desires – La La Land’s failings to be on a grand camp scale of Mame or At Long Last Love, so the audience can at least embrace the shortcomings of the production. But the characters are dreary and one-dimensional and writer/director Damien Chazelle’s big musical numbers are so obviously plumbing the camera movements and editing such diverse cinematic talents as Vincente Minnelli, Bob Fosse and Jacques Demy that it feels as if La La Land is an act of plagiarism rather than a work of art – albeit with Dancing with the Stars-level choreography and a tinny score. It is hard to recall a musical that has been so thoroughly unlikable as this one.

As for the cast, Gosling is no one’s idea of a song and dance man, but at least he looks good on camera. Stone has a passable voice, but she left her charisma in the dressing room. John Legend gives the closest thing to a real performance, both as an actor and a singer, as a jazz/R&B star who lifts Gosling’s character out of poverty for a commercially (if not artistically) lucrative gig.

La La Land is strictly a one-note bore.

  • oscarstan


  • ohreeally

    “There is nothing like a great movie musical”

    Huh? Is that a spoof? La La Land is terrific!

  • Emmy

    I saw the film and think that its single biggest issue was casting. Had Chazelle hired excellent triple threats, it would have been easier to overlook the other flaws. The poor seeing wasn’t just with the leads, literally everybody (even minor and supporting characters) except John Legend had a weak voice. The music was strong, but better voices could’ve taken the film to another level. I couldn’t appreciate the opening and second numbers because of bad singing. The production value didn’t matter if it couldn’t be backed by extraordinary talent. I do like Emma and Ryan as actors.

  • Chromex

    Just returned from watching it because of all the movie of the year stuff and I agree with the reviewer. I’ve sen much better episodes of Crazy Ex Girlfriend. Look when Astaire and Kelly took the stag, the lights went up and with good reason. You could SEE how effortless they made it look. ( conversely, based on what I saw, the director was perhaps wise to resort to low lights and CGI for the uncharismatic couple here) AS for jazz play MIngus or Coltrane if you want to impress an audience with feeling and commitment. Bravo to the critic for bucking the trend.

  • Allen D

    Agree with this review. It wasn’t very good. Not horrible, but noting special either.

  • Heather Essere

    Thank you for the well-written and spot-on review!

  • CorruptedStarlight

    I completely 100% disagree with this review. He’s entitled to his opinion, that’s fine, but I really do think he’s doing this film a great disservice. No it doesn’t have the best vocal performances, but that’s about all I can have as far as big complaints. This film has so much heart and I was filled with emotion, especially at the end. The piano and songs, while not the best vocally, were beautifully written and performed. This might be my favorite film of the year, and maybe even the last few games.

  • Peter Winkler

    Gotta agree with you, but my biggest problem was that unlike The Umbellas of Cherbourg, which ths film clearly imitates, it doesn’t provide a plausible reason why Mia and Seb couldn’t stay together. Consequently, Mia’s little what-might-have-been fantasy doesn’t generate the bittersweet sense of loss we experience at the end of Cherbourg.