Monday, 16 January 2017

La La Land 2016

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Dancing. And singing. In an old-school musical, set in the present day. What could go wrong? Lots apparently; not that the Golden Globes have noticed.

Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone) are both hopefuls living in LA. One wants to be a great jazz musician, with his own club that will revive the tradition of jazz, while he plays Christmas jingles at run-down restaurants. The other wants to be a great actress, known for her talent, while she serves coffee in the local cafe. They meet, they fall in love, good things happen, bad things happen, life happens. All with a song and dance to keep you entertained. The end.

Now we don't expect a musical to have a ground-breaking story. I mean there is a pattern to the genre, and to give the film its due, the pattern is followed well here. But what you expect from a musical is flawless dancing...set pieces that make you gush...songs that are not only well-composed and memorable, but are sung beautifully. Just a few years ago, we forgave Pierce Brosnan (or did we) and Meryl Streep for trashing Abba's repertoire - and we did that because the songs were well-known, we have all sung them badly, and the actors seemed to be having a great time on a Greek island; so we all felt like we were on a holiday with them.

But La La Land, in some way, seems to be pretending to be better than that. In its heart it seems to believe that it is to the Musical, what The Artist (2011) was to the Silent film. It thinks it's a revival. Except...it isn't. The dances aren't flawless, the choreography isn't breathtaking, the tunes aren't that memorable, the singing is REALLY nowhere close to good. And honestly, Bollywood produces about 200 films every year that do a better job at creating set pieces worth watching.

If it wasn't for Emma Stone's unbelievably emotive eyes, and Ryan Gosling's heart-melting expressions, I would wonder why this film got any attention at all. Dancers they may not be, singers they are not, but actors they definitely are the best of. And they deliver an entertaining film, with their combined effort...and effortless, natural chemistry. Their dancing appears cute, their singing sounds sweet, and you want to give them points for trying. Plus, the last 15 minutes of the film are more poignant and beautiful than the entire rest of the film.

Worth watching, because it does make you smile. But lower those expectations that the record 7 Golden Globe wins may have raised - because the film isn't all that good.

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