La La Land Screen 72 of 37 reviews

La La Land

2016

La La Land Poster
  • It asks us to truly empathise with Seb and Mia’s dreams of making it big, zero irony involved. Compared with the blank pastiche of films such as Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Chicago (2002), which approach the perils and promises of fame in a knowing play of surfaces, La La Land sentimentally resurrects the démodé genre of the musical for its wholesome hopefulness and choreographed joy. After postmodernism’s much-touted waning of affect, here sincerity is on the rise.

  • I already loved it. Then it ascended to a different, even more superlative level with its showstopping finale cum heartbreaking denouement. From Fall to the second Winter, Damien Chazelle switches gears from Manhattan to 25th Hour, whilst splitting the difference between Singin' in the Rain and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Of course, every review has dutifully noted this latter comparative pair, but what needs to be absolutely emphasized is the blissful absence of ironic winks or quotation marks.

  • Buoyant, black-and-white Fred and Ginger hoofer flicks; Minnelli’s Technicolor Cinemascope dazzlers; Scorsese and Coppola’s ungainly revamps; and thrilling French re-imaginings by Godard, Demy, and Akerman. Flawed though it is, La La Land deserves a place in this largely glorious company... Five years from now, if we get through this current disaster and if I’m still a cinephile, I might view La La Land as the emotionally poignant, impressively crafted movie that it is, and leave it at that.

  • A very pleasurable musical lifted by the Michel Legrand-like stylings of Justin Hurwitz’s music and a star performance from Emma Stone that runs the gamut from goofy to hurt to blissful and back again. It’s becoming a badge of coolness to reject this film, but really, I’ll take it.

  • The most salient thing about the musical numbers here is how they figure as interruptions to misery and diverse irritations and frustrations — interruptions that are typically interrupted in turn by the hell of a freeway traffic jam or the anguish of a failed audition. This is what makes the singing and dancing seem absolutely necessary, not merely a simple flight from unpleasantness.

  • My favourite film of the festival, and the clear Academy Award frontrunner which had an enthusiastic reception at Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, is La La Land, one of the most exuberant expressions of pure cinema in many years. The only major critique is that it is fairly derivative... But Chazelle’s execution here is almost flawless, putting to full effect the vast, expensive Hollywood machinery (including his charismatic stars) that most of his contemporaries manage to squander.

  • Love, Chazelle suggests, is an unrealistic projection of someone else’s fantasy. The lovers part, which nicely sets up the finale... an extended ballet visualizing a hypothetical sequence of things turning out differently—more happily. Here, the film steps into its dancing shoes and becomes full-fledged fantasy: this is Chazelle himself breaking out into song. The sequence is dazzling, joyous, but also full of ache and yearning as it rehabilitates the reality it echoes at every turn.

  • In keeping with the old-timey vibes, Chazelle delights in throwing a spotlight on his characters — a timeless, expressionistic gesture that elevates their personal reveries to the level of the sublime. The glory of “La La Land,” it turns out, isn’t in those big, would-be-showstopping numbers. It’s in the intimate, quavering grace notes.

  • I’ve seen the future of American Cinema and his name is Damien Chazelle. At 31 and on the basis of his last two feature films, he’s a master storyteller in total command of his craft and with an uncanny ability to surprise an audience, with each gesture, each moment, each frame. In an industry dominated by CGI, his films have a handmade quality and are not only unique as technical achievements with stunning visuals, but moving as an emotional experience as well. That’s a rare combination today.

  • The first time I watched Damien Chazelle’s musical, “La La Land,” I thought a lot about how it worked, about its form, his craft and how the lickable candy-colored costumes bring to mind both M&M’s and Jacques Demy... When I went to see “La La Land” again, I was in a terrible state, and this time I just fell into it, gratefully. I surrendered. Afterward, I realized that this must have been what it was like to watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers during the Great Depression.

  • The Demy / Legrand influence runs deep throughout La La Land, which is practically the American musical Demy might have fashioned if he’d been given the resources circa Model Shop. That is to say, it’s a love letter to the Hollywood movies of the 40s and 50s, to Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, Technicolor et al, but refracted through the nouvelle vague’s peculiar mix of romanticism and realism.

  • Building on his two previous efforts, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench and Whiplash, Chazelle deftly integrates color and camera movement with the choreography of his performers, until all the elements are in pleasing harmony. Not many have Chazelle's talent for summoning a dead form, but for as long as it lasts, La La Land is one hell of a séance.

  • A spectacular and bittersweet crowd-pleaser, but it’s sometimes more concerned with synthesizing lost Hollywood magic than with making any of its own. Yet the purity of Chazelle’s intentions shines through... It asks what the characters of a Cinemascope musical would have to dream about, and answers with a finale that lifts the film to a higher plane of wish fulfillment and melancholy.

  • The film flows with exactly the right number of musical numbers in a perfectly designed replica of Los Angeles that make the smog-infested city seem as radiant and romantic as New York or Paris. Chazelle explores the same kinds of ideas about artistic integrity and endurance as he did in Whiplash, but those ideas are married together more compelling and charmingly here—you won’t be able to stop yourself from falling helplessly in love with this over-the-top rom-com.

  • La La Land may look like the world that we dream about, but it also understands the cruelty that can come out of (or undermine) those dreams. The film is happy, but without a happy ending; it’s shot in CinemaScope, and yet it’s still an intimate masterpiece.

  • This movie is purely for [Gosling and Stone], and they revel in it. You can see it in the way they move and in their singing, too: Stone’s voice is clear and light, like a sliver of morning sun. Gosling’s is soft and dusky, like a moonbeam. They meet in the middle, but not without their share of heartache. La La Land is both a love letter to a confounding and magical city and an ode to the idea of the might-have-been romance, in all its piercing sweetness.

  • As confectionary and slight as La La Land may be, it is nevertheless an illuminating addition to Chazelle’s growing oeuvre of movies about musicians. Chazelle, who once had ambitions of becoming a jazz drummer, has instead pursued the subject on film: Guy and Madeline features a trumpeter; Whiplash, a drummer; La La Land, a pianist. All of these characters, in one way or another, are fixated on their craft and on the culture of jazz. Music is the guiding force in their lives.

  • It worked on me, particularly the Emma Stone stuff. But as someone else once said about another director, Chazelle’s signature talent is in making the difficult look difficult.

  • It sensibly chooses actors who’ll get butts in seats, which is why it never quite manages to achieve the purely rhythmic transcendence to which it clearly aspires. It’s a lot of fun, though. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play aspiring LA artists—she’s an actress; he’s a jazz pianist—whose relationship first blossoms, then founders as they struggle to realize their respective dreams. La La Land is at its best when it feeds on the spiky chemistry between the two. Everything nonmusical sparkles.

  • The movie is a full-service throwback to the Golden Age musical, transposed with lashings of romantic melancholy to a contemporary Los Angeles decked out in primary-colored plumage. Since we seem to have lost the habit of big-screen glamour, the extravagance is welcome.

  • Chazelle’s script combines a girl-meets-boy story with a glad-rags-to-riches tale, then filters it through the films of Astaire and Rogers, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, Vincente Minnelli, and, especially, Jacques Demy. For the 31-year-old Chazelle, who broke through with the mechanical and overheated Whiplash (2013), La La Land is a big leap forward. His filmmaking exuberance and the energy and sweetness of his two stars give this thin soup considerable tang.

  • It feels mechanical, rarely busting loose. For the movie musical newb, it’s probably astonishing; to anyone for whom the genre is a steady part of their filmic diet, it’s a not bad first start. Still, it can’t be stressed how impeccably made it is. Indeed, “La La Land” might have been a mere technical exercise if Chazelle hadn’t cast two wildly personable leads.

  • Unlike the great Demy pictures it wants to emulate,”La La Land” is better on the surface. But, oh, those surfaces. As “Whiplash” proved, Chazelle’s greatest skills stem from his ability to capture the physicality of music.

  • The film’s energetic ambition can’t entirely paper over a story-telling softness at its core, though Linus Sandren’s driving camera works hard to distract. If Whiplash – also scored by Hurtwitz, like Guy and Madeline – cracked with tension, La La Land is its polar opposite. There is so much love and lightness here Chazelle’s film could - and does - take to the air.

  • It's pretty. Not as pretty as One From the Heart, whose saturated neon aura La La Land superficially resembles. But then Chazelle isn't Coppola, and that's understandable. The 11th-hour bid for poignancy, which actually struck me very much like a Michel Gondry move, wasn't a bad touch. But it only emphasized the real problem at the heart of La La Land. I think we could forgive a lot... if we actually had any reason to care about Mia or Sabastian. Who the hell were they?

  • La La Land’s conflicted nature would be far easier to forgive if the film itself—particularly its musical numbers—provided a purer rush of coruscating emotion. But it’s so loaded with cinephile references and so relentlessly self-reflexive that it reaches neither the fervent highs nor the devastating feeling that it’s going for. It’s far too self-conscious, too distanced to reach greatness, Sebastian’s pre-emptive advice regarding any detractors (“Fuck ‘em”) notwithstanding.

  • At the center of it all, Gosling and Stone develop a sincere chemistry their voices can never match. This topsy-turvy tale of love and dreams and sacrifice and heartbreak is not inherently fresh, but Chazelle believes, like Sebastian does with jazz, that "it's new every time." La La Land exists in a world where race is never an issue and your dream job is but a brave decision away. It's a traditionalist that so longs to be a revolutionary, but not really.

  • Weighed down with forgettable songs and wan choreography, La La Land is an overcalculated synthesis of motifs culled from big-budget American Fifties musicals and Jacques Demy’s more melancholy film operettas... Despite some sporadically appealing scenes in which the stars show off their respective dance moves and fairly weak singing voices, Chazelle’s confection fails because it’s a pastiche that lacks the conviction of the films that inspired it.

  • Chazelle’s images are often lovely, keeping his stars low in the frame as the expense of Hollywood subsumes them. The director’s retro fetishism proves capable but inert, the guiding force of a machine ruthlessly formulated to win Oscars that ought to have spared a thought or two for winning over hearts.

  • Not once during La La Land do you feel like you’re watching red-blooded characters, so much as you are the good-natured, tirelessly committed actors playing them. Hollowness results, and a crucial piece of the movie-musical illusion goes missing. Melodies are being sung, but the impassioned souls from which they’re supposed to spring are absent.

  • Chazelle’s camera spins and twists and cranes with showy, athletic mobility. But the showiness of the camerawork is overtly strenuous, technique without actual purpose, distracting from the fact that what it’s filming isn’t actually very well staged or choreographed; it is in fact rather a hymn to its own existence, a “wow, can you believe I’m pulling this in 2016?” statement.

  • What makes these films—and music by masters like George Michael—great is their willingness to approach new forms and ideas, instead of just cynically regurgitating the dreams of the past. In that aforementioned profile of Michael, what he communicated above all else was deep respect for the form in which he chose to work. La La Land, on the other hand, trades such careful contemplation for empty cynicism and flashy colors.

  • Starts out Step Up, then Stage Door done midcentury, but the charm of the fantasy fades when it yields easy wins and cliches... mostly it's just that everything collapses—the character sketches, the magic of the movies, the fortune cookie offerings—if you put your lips together and blow. The tawdry secret to La La Land is it's all so cheap.

  • The big production numbers... are studious, effortful, rehearsed to death, personality-free, and lacking in the essential factor: wonder. Chazelle strives to impress, to wow, to dazzle—but not to inspire; his musical ideas and visual sensibility are jolting neither in their surfaces nor in their substance, neither in their action nor in their images; they close off the imagination rather than opening it.

  • I believe that Chazelle knows exactly what he’s doing, and he does it with considerable verve and lubricity—too much, in fact. There’s nary a rough patch in the whole movie, and when Mia sings her audition song, a downbeat piano-accompanied ode to the mad artists that offers the salutation “Here’s to the hearts that ache/ Here’s to the mess we make,” you might be forgiven for asking: What mess?

  • The sonic shambles of the film’s opening number (a traffic-jam hoedown) set a low bar and display a tin ear, and the artistic-underdog story told by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling felt more and more like pandering. Instead of being gleefully transported by any given number, I began to cringe when a character could clearly feel a song coming on.

  • Damien Chazelle’s goal in his follow-up to Whiplash is a boldly direct one: to flood the screen with charm, to bring down the house with joy. Walking into my screening after having had my fair share of dour and difficult festival entries, I could scarcely think of a nobler aim for cinema. Less than twenty minutes later, I was gasping for air. La La Land’s tunnel vision of cheer is a winking steamroller, an avalanche of tinsel and cellophane and Muzak.

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