La La Land Movie Review
Damn expectations. After months of buzz and weeks of ohmygerdthisisthebestmovieoftheyear reviews, La La Land makes its debut, and it is… just okay?
Beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted, La La Land is a well made and generally entertaining movie; it just isn’t nearly as good as everyone says. Serious Best Picture contender? It very well may be, but it doesn’t deserve to be.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are solid in their respective roles as two passionate entertainers who bond with wholesome chemistry but whose career trajectories may tear them apart. Stone is especially captivating as her emotions seep into every pore of the film. Both have been better in other things, but their performances shouldn’t be overlooked.
The movie thrives on the whimsical and nostalgic direction by Damien Chazelle, who has quickly turned into a filmmaker to watch (in addition to helming the critically acclaimed Whiplash, he also wrote 10 Cloverfield Lane, one of 2016’s best movies). La La Land beats to its own drum, and it’s clear from the film’s first minute that Chazelle is going all in, no matter where it takes him.
And yet… La La Land just isn’t the amazing piece of filmmaking it’s been made out to be.
The movie is a musical, but only its main song, a slow, romantic piano piece, has true power--and even then, it’s only marginally memorable. The film’s first two musical numbers, while impressively choreographed, are simply not good, and while the music and style evolve from there, it takes a long while to shake free of the unimpressive opening.
La La Land works best when Stone and Gosling are together and less well when they’re apart, and much of the third act struggles to match the spark of earlier moments. The film’s finale is top notch and one of the more intoxicating sequences of the year, but it is too little, too late.
I’ve heard many people say, “But La La Land just makes me feel good,” which is great. Good for them. That still doesn’t make it one of the best movies of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.