La La Land (Damien Chazelle, USA 2016)

la-la-land

excellent music
weak script

No good movie can be made on a bad script!

Beloved reader, please DO NOT READ further! If you have seen the movie and enjoyed it – like everyone else seems to have – don’t read further, I might spoil your pleasure.

If you haven’t seen the movie, do like everybody else: enjoy it.

SPOILERS ahead!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a good musical. Not that I like musicals. In fact, I don’t … except for a few ones like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, etc. (Is Amadeus a musical?) Let me explain. I hate musicals that have for only goal to promote a dancer or a choreographer as so many Fred Astaire or Busby Berkeley movies do.

In many of their movies, the studios seem in such a hurry to make money out of the craft of these artists that they didn’t take the time to develop a decent script to sustain the dancing or the choreography.

Crowned with Golden Globes and Oscars to come, I hoped La La Land would mark a new climax in the history of musicals. After all, IMDb gives it an 8,8, a score far superior to that of Top Hat (7,9), West Side Story (7,6), My Fair Lady (7,9), Singing in the Rain (8,3), The Sound of Music (8,0), The Wizard of Oz (8,1), etc.

Well, I was in for a big disappointment. And all the evidence points out to the use of a bad script.

First of all, it takes the movie more than one hour (81 minutes to be exact) to get to the main point, what most (good) scripts (under Hollywood norms) get done within twenty minutes. What a waste of time!

A second aspect is the waste of material that comes with the opening scene: a large cast dances around and on cars that are stuck on the freeway. Nice colors, interesting setting, good music, excellent dancers, blameless choreography. Perfect! The problem is that the scene doesn’t fit at all in the movie. In fact, it’s the only scene using such a large cast in such a setting. Conclusion: if the scene cannot be integrated into the script, the scene has to be cut.

One last thing. Whereas Emma Stone was perfect right from the start, I thought for quite a while that Ryan Gosling was miscast. It’s only when we get to the core of the story (a long eighty minutes, remember?) that Ryan Gosling gets a chance to express his acting capacities. Conclusion: Gosling was not miscast, it’s the script that was not adapted to exploit this actor’s possibilities.

So here we are. Although La La Land has good (hybrid) music and great actors, its ill-exploited choreography and bad script make it a mediocre movie that will probably be crowned with many Oscars.

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, John Legend
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cinematographer: Linus Sandgren
Editor: Tom Cross
Composer: Justin Hurwitz

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