Finally. I finally saw La La Land this past weekend. I took my seat, and though I’m not a fan of musicals, went in with an open mind. After all, I have grown quite fond of An American in Paris, Nine and of course Singing’ in the Rain. These were all great works with the latter most being nothing less than pure brilliance. Unfortunately, the days of Gene Kelly have long since passed, which brings us to the courageous and creative Damien Chazelle who wrote and directed La La Land. Now that the movie is over, I can tell all the award ceremonies why they’re wrong.
The musical Chicago arrived in movie theaters 15 years ago and proved to be quite the successful production. Ciritcs loved it, fans loved it, though admittedly, I never did see it. Enter late 2016 and the arrival of La La Land. I think Hollywood has been clamoring for any semblance of the quality/success of Chicago, that they would’ve gone nuts over anything calling itself a musical. The problems of the film are numerous. Ryan Gosling is not a singer. I know he never claimed to be, but he’s about as good as I am and no one ever commended me in my adult life for my singing ability (for good reason). Emma Stone is better at exercising her voice musically, but it’s nothing that is award-worthy.
Next is the dancing, which was rather novice at best in this film. Unlike singing, dancing is something I do know about, so I recognize skill when I see it. Here, I saw two actors who proficiently performed above-beginner steps in this film. Really? The singing and dancing are part of what the public and critics are going nuts over? What a way to water down the arts. Here’s a trophy for fifth place. Well done. It doesn’t stop there, which brings me to the awards this show has already garnered and is about to in next month’s Oscars. There is no way, not in this universe or a parallel one, that Ryan Gosling gave a better performance in La La Land than Denzel Washington did in Fences. Washington’s role as Troy Maxson, my mislead friends, is a benchmark of thespian artistry.
I should probably include La La Land‘s story in my rant (or as I like to think of this, an enlightenment). At its very best was a mediocre accomplishment. This 2-hour, 8-minute film felt more like it ran double that time due to a plot that sometimes went nowhere and other times wasn’t engaging enough to identify where it was headed. The story had its smile-inducing moments, maybe even a gasp or two encouraged from a character’s line during an argument. Still, that was about it for highlights. Don’t get me wrong, I commend those involved for putting forth a project that’s of a nearly extinct genre at the cinema. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, nevertheless, their execution was nothing exciting.
Two main components of a musical are the aforementioned singing and dancing. While some may enjoy the story of La La Land, even though it was nothing ground-breaking, it is the singing and dancing from the film that should be looked at far more closely. How many songs can be sung flat? How many arm-out movements can be used to distract viewers from the lackluster footwork? Yes, I know neither are professional dancers, but neither was Debbie Reynolds when she signed on the dotted line for Singin’ in the Rain. She worked tirelessly at it, learning tap in an uncanny short time in order to hang with the likes of Gene Kelly. It is important to point out that Ryan Gosling did learn to play piano, quite proficiently I might add, in three months preparing for his role. For that, I take my hat off (for everything else I put it back on).
To the Academy, which, in all likelihood will never read this, I commend you for all of your picks in recent years. My advice to you is don’t break that streak. Let’s not repeat a decision that saw Shakespeare in Love winning out over Saving Private Ryan. Ryan Gosling did not give the male performance of the year. Emma Stone did not give the female performance of the year. Hollywood needs to calm down on their reaction to this film.