Why ‘La La Land’ is Overrated

La La squareFinally. 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.

La La observatory

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.

La La piano


8 Responses to “Why ‘La La Land’ is Overrated”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Once again, I always wonder how a film is overrated because the person stating so didn’t enjoy it. It’s not as if everyone else is wrong for having their own opinion, the film didn’t work for you, so that’s fine, but hardly means it is incorrect to think otherwise.

    Hollywood hasn’t beeen “clamoring for the success of Chicago.” You would have seen a lot more musicals in the 14 years since that film.

    Obviously I wish you bought into the film more. I felt it was a great mix of a stylized depiction of LA blended with the idea of regular people performing and dealing with the reality of accomplishing their dreams.

    Ask curious if you had problems with anything beyond the couple of songs they sang, the couple of dances they did and the story you were very vague about describing issues with. Did you enjoy the score, the very elaborate camerawork, the cinematography, the themes, John Legend’s song, the actual songwriting, the giant ending montage, the humor, that opening one-take shot? Just curious.

  2. Brian White

    Dude! I have yet to see La La Land as I’m waiting for the 4K release to be my first experience with it, but I applaud you for being bold to go against the grain of the majority that love this film. I love the way you back up your sentiments from your dancing eyes. Again I cant say if you’re right or wrong, but the one thing I always respect is people’s opinions. Not everyone is wired the same. The one thing I hear from most is they hate the ending. I already have it spoiled and know how it ends so no biggie to me. Looking forward to seeing if I feel the same.

  3. Gregg Senko

    Right, first things first, no one is right or wrong for liking this film or disliking it. The opening shot did nothing for me. John Legend’s song was decent, nothing I wanted to buy though. The score was mediocre overall but I do like me some jazz and the jazz in the film was a welcomed though short-lived pleasure. The cinematography, yes, was quite good, probably the highlight in my eyes aside from Gosling’s piano playing. The ending montage felt like it was paying homage to the ending of An American in Paris. If it was, kudos, if it wasn’t, nice job anyway. Still, it didn’t thrill me as an finale should. Make no mistake though, I am not saying this was a bad movie. I am saying it was very overrated. I certainly understand how someone could leave this film having thoroughly enjoyed it. However, there is nothing overtly special about this film. When I hear “best picture nominee,” I want to leave that film contemplating the hell out of the awesomeness I just saw. I want an emotional jolt, worthy of “best picture” films that are capable of delivering that. This came nowhere close to any of that. Hollywood got a musical and they’re losing their minds over it. Like an old boss of mine would say, “Easy Chochy. Slow your stroll. It’s not all that and a bag of rice.”

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well, you’re saying no one’s right or wrong for their opinion on the film but also saying it’s overrated. I don’t understand the difference. I know I loved the film and am not inflating my rating of it in any way, let alone the many others who love this movie. I get that it didn’t work for you, but I just never understand what the term overrated really means, aside from suggesting people are wrong to suggest a film is as good as their opinion has deemed it.

  5. Gregg

    Overrated in the sense it’s being nominated for everything under the sun. For instance, I liked Hacksaw Ridge a lot. If it were nominated for all the same things La La Land is, I’d say Hollywood has an overrated view of it. La La Land doesn’t deserve an Oscar for Best Picture. It doesn’t deserve a win for Best Actor or Actress either.

  6. Gregg

    Actually, I want to add to that. It’s not just about the awards, though that is a big part of it. Cinematography and camera angles, that’s not what a musical is about. The singing! The dancing! The bar was set so low for those things.

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    (you probably won’t be happy when it wins Best Picture then)

  8. Ulises

    I saw it three times and I can’t stop listening the soundtrack so no overrated for me…