La La Land (2016)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

What can I say about La La Land, the modern musical that’s won the hearts of millions? Well, I could tell you that it’s entertaining, optimistic, and very impressive when you consider all the work that went into crafting certain sequences. But I’d be remiss if I failed to mention my overall dislike for the picture, and how I honestly have no desire to ever see it again.

Hate me yet? Good. Because I’m not done.

Now before I go on, I just want you to know that I don’t despise this movie. I recognize how good the acting, cinematography and dialogue are. I’m not trying to say that I think this is a bad film. I’m saying, it’s not a movie I enjoyed. You all might, and I’m happy if you do. But, for me, this isn’t a film I think I’ll ever revisit.

Now, with all that said, La La Land tells the story of two struggling artists, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who meet and fall in love in LA. And that’s really it. It’s just a movie about two people trying to get by, and their relationship. Theres no big super villain plot. The world is not at stake. There’s not even a real sense that if they were to break up, they’d be all that unhappy. And, spoilers, they do break up by the end, and are just fine. This honestly was one of the main reasons I didn’t care for this picture, the fact that it never got me invested. I never got the sense that something was at stake in this picture. If the characters broke up, I knew that they’d be fine, because the movie shows them being fine. If they got fired from their jobs, I knew they’d find other, better ones, because the movie shows them doing that. I never once believed that Emma Stone would end up selling herself just to stay alive, or that Ryan Gosling would hang himself if he couldn’t start his own jazz club. Now I’m not trying to say that the movie had to go that dark. I’m saying, at least in other Musicals, like Oliver and Miss Saigon, both of which I’ve acted in, there are real stakes. The threat of death, poverty and trauma is ever present in them. You know that these characters could, and probably will, die, or have something bad happen to them if they don’t act right. And that gets you to care more about the story. In La La Land, you know that both these characters have back up plans if they’re musical or theatrical careers go south. And while I, as an artist, don’t want anyone to give up on their dreams, as a spectator, I kept asking myself, “why should I care about you? You’ll be fine, either way. Where are the stakes?”

Another thing that bugged me about this movie was how overly nostalgic it was. Now before any of you call me a hypocrite, I had the same problem with Stranger Things, one of my favorite new shows. In that series, the creators show off their deep love for the 1980s, while never once commenting on the negative aspects of that time period. Similarly, La La Land acts as a huge love letter to both Jazz music and classic Hollywood, even going so far as to recreate whole sequences from movies like An American In Paris. And while these recreations are impressive, as are all the dance and musical numbers in this film, I found myself asking, at multiple points, “what is this doing for your story? I get that you love jazz, and old movies, but that’s not enough to support a plot. When are things with consequences going to happen?” Nostalgia can only carry a movie so far, and I honestly think there was too much of it in this picture.

But, in the end, I know that audiences won’t care about either of those things. Because this movie has made tons of money, and won even more awards. It’s actually set a record for the movie with the most Oscar nominations in history. Clearly, this film has spoken to a lot of people, and that’s fine. I’m glad that they enjoy it. I just didn’t. So, if you want to see it, go ahead. More power to you. If, on the other hand, you’re like me, and you want there to be stakes in your film, don’t. It’s up to you.

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4 thoughts on “La La Land (2016)

  1. I think you’re right Nathan, and I also think that having no stakes may be exactly why people like it–because there is so much at stake, and being lost, every day, in the real world. It’s so depressing. Maybe people just needed to see something inconsequential and also some well adjusted charachters who, while they have bittersweet memories, are actually happy to see another person happy. Or maybe it’s just a snide commentary, indicated by title, of how self centered people can be today.

    • Thank you very much. I actually enjoy your stuff as well, particularly your analysis of Ghost In The Shell, and whether they should have censored its more adult content. Yes. One of my reviews, “War and God: An Analysis Of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising” has been shared on various websites. Why? Would you like to share this review? If so, go right ahead. I’m always happy to have more people read my stuff.

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