Cinema Review: La La Land

This is a stylish, handsomely designed retro-musical with a classic boy-meets-girl through line, albeit leading to a peculiar post-modern, ‘sliding doors’ conclusion. Whether it is worth anywhere near the 8.9 average vote on IMdB’s viewers’ poll, however, is problematic. Too often I found myself sitting with glazed eyes, underwhelmed by the time-honoured ‘chase that dream’ formula and, in all honesty, I left thinking that it was not much better than merely okay. Rose-coloured glasses are all well and good (essential, maybe, in this monochromatic age), but when donned by filmmakers who are keen to revive Hollywood’s golden era, self-reference too often slides into galling self-reverence. And it is no different here as Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), the unappreciated muso committed to his belief in pure jazz, and Mia (Emma Stone), the struggling but talented actress wanting that big break, cling to their starry hopes. Unfortunately, apart from Justin Hurwitz’s haunting but over-played theme, there is not a decent tune that stays in your head and the dance routines, though intricately choreographed (and shot in clinical one-takes), are not enough to lift proceedings above the banal – and what on earth were they thinking when they dressed Stone in that vomit-yellow dress for the couple’s (rather mechanical) pas de deux? Stone looks unhealthily skinny throughout, which only accentuates her unsettling, enormous doll’s eyes, while Gosling’s understatement seems at odds with the aimed-at ebullience. Aurally, I’m not sure what Damien Chazelle’s intention was, but on a number of occasions there are the most ear-splitting noises that take you out of the moment – Sebastian’s loud car horn (three times it assaults the eardrums, and it’s not a bit funny), a brain-piercing smoke detector that goes at least a dozen beeps too long, a high-pitched trumpet squeal that is entirely counterproductive to Sebastian’s missionary zeal for the music he loves so much. It’s all a bit try-hard, with an ending that wants to be profound but just limps into the credits with a lingering sense of ‘so what’?

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