Dan Taylor begins our countdown to the 2017 Academy Awards by reviewing Best Film candidate La La Land…
La La Land is proof of how award season can both make and break a film. It’s certainly done wonders to the studios bank balance as the awards its racked up so far has had audiences turning out in their millions to see it but the hype caused as a result of it’s Oscar attention has done the film itself no favours. It’s nigh impossible to live up to the high standards audiences come to expect from multi award-winning picture and working in cinema I have witnessed many disappointed faces emerge from the theatre and many have made comments such as “it wasn’t that good, was it?” or “I thought this was supposed to be the best movie of the year!”
Some people have out right hated it for varying reasons. Certain sections of the audience are simply not fans of musical movies or musicals full stop so the homage to the old musical movies of the 50’s are completely lost on them but there are definitely subsections that couldn’t appreciate the film on face value due to the expectations that have been built up by it’s award haul and critical praise as while taste is always subjective, often if you’re told something is the best thing since sliced bread you’ll immediately be disappointed as nothing rarely ever lives up to that kind of recognition. I’ll be completely honest and admit even I have been guilty of criticizing a film unfairly due to positive press – that film was 2011’s The Artist.
That being said, I did like it. I’m a massive fan of Whiplash and I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my favourite movies of all time and while this doesn’t quite live up to those heights, it gives it a bloody good go. Damien Chazelle proves once again that he’s one of our generations finest young filmmaker and his unique vision and undeniable talent is on display once again. Like Whiplash, you can tell La La Land is very much a labour of love! I just hope he keeps doing what he’s doing and unlike other promising young filmmakers, doesn’t get caught up in the big Hollywood machine. It would be a tragedy if like Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian, he sells his soul and ends up making films he’s not passionate about.
Like Whiplash, Chazelle lets the music do the talking and his love for toe tapping, free form jazz is at the heart of this movie. While they’re dramatic and even comedic elements to this picture, it is ultimately a musical and the music is given centre stage. The main theme (titled ‘Mia & Sebastian’s Theme’) by Chazelle’s creative partner Justin Hurwitz is a beautifully classic sounding tune that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of the film.
Ryan Gosling is fantastic in the lead role, a struggling musician frustrated by his dream that repeatedly seems to be just out of his grasp. Honestly though, I can’t praise this guy highly enough. After a (in my opinion) dodgy period where he worked almost exclusively with the tedious Nicolas Winding Refn on the superficial and frankly overrated Drive and the vulgar Only God Forgives, in what can only be viewed as an attempt to try and be seen as a “serious” actor, he has since gone on to make three really good films in a row. Like La La Land, both The Nice Guys and The Big Short have elements of comedy which Gosling plays so naturally as well as drama that he does with ease.
Gosling is reunited for the third time with the delightful Emma Stone who also impresses as a fellow dreamer Mia, who like Stone herself left a small town to move to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. While she is nominated Best Actress for the second time, I’d say this isn’t necessarily her best work – that I’d probably reserve for her Oscar nod, The Help. The pair do have electric chemistry so it’s no wonder directors keep bringing these two together and they both do a brilliant job of emulating the stars of yesteryear such as Deborah Kerr, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and the recently dearly departed Debbie Reynolds.
Overall, I think this probably needs a second viewing when all the award buzz has died down and I hope others will give it another go too. Perhaps it will change their perception on a second viewing? While I like it and while I can appreciate the attention it’s gotten, I worry that the award hype will continue to overshadow it!
What did you think of this film? Does it deserve the Oscar? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in comments below.