When I saw the trailer I thought, “Nah.” When I read the reviews I wasn’t much more interested. When people started talking about it at work, I was surprised. Thing is, La La Land kind of exploded and I couldn’t figure out why, so I decided I had better go see it.
I didn’t think people really did musicals for cinema anymore, let alone with enormous song and dance numbers. The last musical I remember seeing at the cinema was Les Miserables which was fantastic, of course, but was a bit of a one off – I don’t remember what the one before was. Of course, Les Mis doesn’t have the saccharine sweetness of La La Land.
So here’s the story: Woman is a waitress who wants to be an actress, man is a jobbing musician who wants to run a jazz club. They meet a couple of times and he is rude to her, but on the third time he’s nice to her and before they know it they’re in a whirlwind romance, each of them encouraging the other to pursue their dreams.
The course of true love never did run smooth so naturally, a few trials are thrown at our tap dancing heroes. Along the way, there is a great deal of singing and dancing, including a totally perplexing number right at the very start where people in a traffic jam climb out of their cars to dance. The other numbers made more sense, fortunately.
The music is fantastic. There’s a heavy jazz influence and I found myself humming the songs all the way through the following week, greatly annoying my office mates, no doubt. Likewise, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, both of whom I always find fun to watch, give great performances. The story is a solid, slightly tragic romance and the struggles the two face are the ones you would expect.
However, I remain sceptical. I enjoyed the movie, and maybe it’s a good thing that people are still making musicals, especially ones as pretty as this. I’ve read people claiming that we need a little La La Land-style optimism right now, and a film like this is great at cheering us up, but actually the film demonstrates how difficult it is to find work right now and how they often end up sacrificing relationships to do it – putting people in primary colours doesn’t make that a cheerful message.
It ran over two hours and I have to admit glancing at my watch once or twice. I’m not sure if the solution would have been to edit it a little more aggressively or not. Certainly, removing the musical numbers would have shortened it, but I think without them there’s almost no point in it existing. In the end, while everyone seems to be giving it 5/5, I’m closer to giving it 3.
Perhaps the conclusion is: If you love musicals, you’ll love La La Land. If you’re not really that into them, it probably depends on your mood.