This goes out to the two people who asked me why I hated La La Land so much. I’m sure you’re regretting that now.
I’ve loved musicals since I saw Singin’ in the Rain the first time as a kid. The singing, the dancing, the sets, the costumes, the actors. I loved everything about musicals and I’ve watched them feverishly since then. Bollywood’s enhanced dramatics are just as irresistible. So when La La Land came out naturally the assumption was that I would love this movie.
Modern singing, dancing, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, what could be there to dislike?
Let me just roll up my sleeves and start at the beginning, the beginning that comes out of nowhere and includes no principal leads. It’s a nice number that tells you absolutely nothing about what you’re going to watch.
Then we meet the two most unlikable leads in a long time. Ryan Gosling is condescending, a know-it-all, and never able to admit defeat or error. What he finds to like in Emma Stone is baffling. It also seems like a role he’s tailor made for. He embodies it too naturally and is so awful that I felt surely he’s familiar with the personality type.
Emma Stone plays an aspiring actress. Despite the fact that obviously at one point in her career she didn’t have to play this role, she embodied this role, it’s tough to see her as the mousey, timid, self-doubter that she plays in this movie. She has several genuine moments of sparkle that remind me of why she’s so likable in all her other movies, but here the spark is only shown as an anecdotal and random trait.
Neither can sing or dance and while the film tries to use these rough edges in a charming way, what happens is parody shtick of all the great classic charming moments of the old classics. The banter in their dances feels forced given the speaking tenor of their relationship, and the romance of their singing and the sets employed feels trite next to the rough, uneven and unremarkable dialogue of their meet-cute and subsequent falling out.
The concept of a modern day jazz pianist rescuing jazz from itself to bring back to dark night clubs would also be charming, if not for the insufferable, arrogant lead. I was so against our hero that I was actively rooting for John Legend’s character who is half-heartedly played as a “villain”. Naturally, in a movie like this the only villains are the leads themselves, but he must of course play the negative catalyst, trying to do something unique with jazz music which makes it an abomination to jazz in general. Naturally.
There are no other side-characters of import or note. None with speaking roles, no good cameos, nothing to distract us from these two ill-suited individuals who we’re just waiting to break up for the entire length of the movie.
There is one charming scene, and that’s it’s ending. It’s a fast montage of what might have been and it gives us a fresh tempo, something to get the heart beating again, and for a moment there’s a small amount of regret that they’ll never be able to have this idealized world they could never have held onto. And it passes and the credits roll.
The costumes were lovely, the sets were creative, the colors were memorable. I’d like to forget all the rest.
I realize that musicals are rare these days, which means that for the most part we’re content with a musical existing and demand no more from it than that. It doesn’t have to be good it just has to remind us of the good movies we watched before, or could have watched if we could stand to go all the way through a movie made before our birth year.
If i want to see an arrogant, insufferable know-it-all fall in love with an ingenue, struggling actress trying to make it in Hollywood, I’ll watch Singin’ in the Rain again.
So thank you, La La Land for reminding me through tepid call backs and shoddy footwork of a true classic, thanks for getting me back to Singin’ in the Rain.