I’ve been accused of being a “La La Land” hater. It’s not really so. I admired a lot about writer/director Damien Chazelle’s second feature film, and am a big fan of his first, “Whiplash.” It’s a gorgeous love letter to the city of Los Angeles, as well as a homage to old-school film musicals of the Golden Age of movies.
I just didn’t think it deserved the mountain of Oscar nominations it received, which tied “All About Eve” for the most ever.
“La La Land” is a little bit of a lot of things -- funny, sad, romantic, melodious, handsome, charming. But it just doesn’t impact you in one or two strong ways. Rather than landing hard with both feet, the film dances around you like a zephyr, entertaining but not engrossing.
For movies, it’s better to do a few things well rather than try to be a lot of things at once.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play Sebastian and Mia, struggling young L.A. artists. He’s a jazz purist who pounds the keys for coins, but keeps losing jobs because he doesn’t want to stick to the stingy playlists. She works as a barista to the stars but dreams of becoming one herself. She goes on an endless series of soul-numbing auditions, where casting directors take phone calls while she’s performing.
They waltz through a familiar boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wants-girl-back narrative. In between the movie also puts the pair through their paces in several musical numbers (composed by Justin Hurwitz). The tunes aren’t particularly memorable, and neither Stone or Gosling will ever be confused with singers.
I like “La La Land,” admire things about it. But it didn’t even crack my list of the top 25 movies of 2016.
Bonus features are excellent, and even the DVD edition has a handsome suite of goodies. Though you’ll have to pay for the Blu-ray version to get everything.
The DVD has a feature-length commentary track with Chazelle and Hurwitz and three making-of featurettes focusing on specific musical numbers, as well as a piece on song selection.
The Blu-ray adds a host of more featurettes, focusing on things like Gosling learning to play piano for the movie and John Legend making his featuring film acting debut. Best bonus bit: “Damien & Justin Sing: The Demos,” in which the guys behind the camera and piano, respectively, belt out some tunes.