Thursday, 2 February 2017

La La Land Afterthoughts.

There are quite a few things that started bothering me after watching La La Land. To begin with it is somewhat disappointing that musicals are so rare these days that there are no singers-dancers-actors of the levels of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly or Cyd Charisse, who perhaps wasn't a great singer, but have you seen her dance? And she was a fabulous actor too. So in order to get funding the one musical of the year stars who, while adequate in dancing and singing, actually pale in comparison to some of their background dancers. have to recruited, There is a charm to the fact that they are not professional dancers no doubt, and if one is going to make a musical these days it is definitely the thing to do, I mean both Emma Stone and even Ryan Gosling are quite an improvement to the travesty that was Russell Crowe being allowed to destroy one of the best characters in musicals or Pierce Brosnan butchering Abba, but I can’t help imagining how amazing this particular musical would have looked with better dancers and singers  

However, most of the flaws in La La Land are to do with Ryan Gosling, a weak actor at best, who plays a pretty awful character. To be fair to Gosling, his singing and dancing are adequate and his piano playing looks like lots of fun, maybe he should do that instead of acting. To begin with he never convinces me as either the broody type, he always looks too content, or the struggling artist, it is even worse when he struggles with his conscience. Perhaps the worst bit of acting from Gosling was the scene in which he makes Mia, Emma Stone’s character, dinner. It is the beginning of the end of their relationship and it is agonising to watch, but for all the wrong reasons, he’s just not in it! Luckily Emma Stone is an incredible actress and it almost doesn’t matter how bad Gosling is.

Not all that is wrong is Gosling’s fault. His character, Sebastian, is not the best white dude out there. Let’s say I’m OK with his mansplaning of Jazz, while doing exactly what Mia says people do with Jazz music, talking over it, but fair enough Jazz is his passion it is not hers and he explains it passionately. Let’s say I’m even OK with a white dude claiming to be the “real deal” of Jazz over the one black dude in the film, the one true Jazz artist who would "save" Jazz and bring back its roots. I’m actually not that OK with that, but over the years there were many great white Jazz players and for a long time Jazz music kinda belongs to everyone. But the thing that is somewhat grating is Sebastian, the musician, mansplaining Mia the actress how to be a better actress and how to fulfill her dream.
Judging by the two films I have seen by the rather talented, I must say, Damien Chazelle, Whiplash and La La Land, artistic success and love do not go hand in hand for him. It seems that in order to achieve artistic perfection one has to give up love in order to dedicated themselves completely to their art.

And yet, despite all the issues with La La Land, I find myself going back to my instinctive gut reaction to this film and like all great musicals this film aims to the gut and hit it well. My gut reaction was and still remains a kind of joy and great love for this film. Simply because there is so much love for musicals in this film and that is something I crave in this musical-less world. I could never understand people who, usually without actually watching any, say they don’t like musicals, but even less so could I understand people who say they don’t usually like musicals, but they enjoyed La La Land, a film which could not exist without a rich history of brilliant musicals. It is elating to see a film that so unashamedly celebrates musicals without trying to be cynical or edgy about it, And it’s not just the wonderful and mandatory homages to great past musicals, but the whole feel and brilliant energy of the films gives it its sparks. It is a film that wants to be beautiful and it does it. But even as a great lover of the genre I managed to be emotionally surprised by La La Land and I absolutely loved it! So I forgive its problem and embrace that joyous gut feeling.