La La Land (2016)

  • Recent movie spoiler warning! If you haven’t seen this & you plan to…stop reading this post now. Also, you should probably get off your ass & go watch it soon, because at this point it’s been out for awhile, and I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for.
  • I would first like to comment on the outstandingness of this movie’s teaser trailer (not the “Official Trailer” – but the one that came out before that one, that features “City of Stars” throughout). The people who put it together did a marvelous job with it. It is so good that – having already watched it multiple times and seen the movie in full – I want to go watch the trailer again, right now. Maybe 2 or 3 times consecutively. That’s how good it is.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the opening traffic scene. It gets its point across very well – ‘You are watching a modern day musical, damn it – start getting used to spontaneously unrealistic outbreaks of singing & dancing NOW,’ – but in the grand scheme of the movie, it feels like the one major piece that’s sort of tacked on, and doesn’t really flow with the rest of the narrative. I understand that from it comes Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)’s first encounter, and the repeated honking bit (which I love) – but that’s just at the tail end of the scene, and I feel like there could have been a different lead-in to those moments. Who are all those people dancing on their cars? Why do we care about them? The answers are, respectively: we don’t know, and we don’t.
  • I loved all of the sequences involving stars (the shiny, spacey kind, I mean – not the celebrity kind).
  • I loved the direct references to CASABLANCA (1942) and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), and I loved the use of the Griffith Observatory.
  • John Legend does a nice job as Keith. I understand that it wasn’t an extremely complex role to play – but he did all that he needed to, & was very natural about it.
  • Relatedly, I left the movie wishing that some of the side characters had been fleshed out a bit more. Like…what about the break-in sister (Rosemarie DeWitt)? She’s there that one time, then she gets married – and that’s it. What’s her story? Also – why was Keith the worst? Sebastian kept referring to how awful he was…but that’s all we ever know. And who the fuck was Greg? Where did he come from? (He seems like such a random addition to the movie that I bet all of you were just like, ‘Greg? Who’s Greg?’ just then.) (Greg was Mia’s flash of a boyfriend, played by Finn Wittrock, in case – like me – you have already forgotten.)
  • I thought the movie did a great job establishing & growing the relationship between Sebastian & Mia. A lot of the credit for this goes to Gosling & Stone & their amazing chemistry – but the way the story was laid out also helped. Bravo.
  • I liked the detail of Sebastian returning to his car – directly in front of the party house – after he walked with Mia to find hers. That was beautiful.
  • I thought Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone did a marvelous job in their roles, but my mind wasn’t blown. I don’t mean this to sound negative at all – I just mean that, though truly excellent, their performances weren’t world-changing, or anything.
  • A similar thing can be said of the visuals, I think. The visuals were the one part of the movie that I think I was slightly disappointed by – only because the trailer made it look (& word of mouth made it sound) way more stunning as a whole than it actually was. The semi-breathtaking visual moments were for the most part highlighted in the movie’s trailer, and I kind of expected there to be more, not-previewed ones in the full movie. Also, I think the fact that large-scale movie musicals are not new to me played into my not being totally blown away by this one. Though really pretty & very well executed, the movie’s visuals were not, say, Busby Berkeley-level visuals. The color palettes were creative & gorgeous, yes – but I’ve seen better (and I don’t meant that in a self-congratulatory way – any movie-musical watcher has).
  • I like the restaurant name “Chicken on a Stick” way better than I like the name “Seb’s.” Plus, that logo Mia drew for the name was ugly as sin, and that musical note used as an apostrophe made me want to vomit a little.
  • I hope these notes don’t sound too overwhelmingly negative – because I really, really enjoyed this movie & highly recommend it & hope it wins lots of awards! We should all applaud Damien Chazelle for dreaming this up & having the guts to get it made. I’m super impressed by him. Also – let’s salute Mandy Moore (the choreographer, not the singer/actor/ex-Mrs. Ryan Adams) & Justin Hurwitz (the music guy) for their work on the film.
  • I feel like I will be whistling “City of Stars” to myself, a la Gosling-on-the-boardwalk, for years & years to come.
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