La La Land (12a)

Dec 13, 2017
Cranbrook Film Society

This is not really a musical but a funny and subversive exploration of the nature of success in the jungle that is Tinsel Town. Two arty young hopefuls with moderate talents take on the “system”; the result is a conflict of ambition and ethics expertly guided through a labyrinth of iconic Hollywood film imagery from “Casablanca” to “Singing in the Rain” by a director who holds contradictory points of view.

Blinding cinematography, a superb script, acceptable songs, average dancing, and a kind of aching romance not seen since the forties this “blockbuster” manages to be both entertaining and profound.

Damien Chazelle | USA | 2016 | 128 mins | 12A


It is hard to believe that Damien Chazelle was only 27 when he made La La Land, his follow up to Whiplash. An alumnus of Harvard and Princeton, Chazelle conceived, directed and scripted this parable of ambition and it is a kind of masterpiece. We may be seeing a new Coppola/Scorsese in the making.

Although it takes the form of a traditional musical, it is actually strongest in its romantic and comic elements, not to say its contradictory narrative.

This is the story of two not particularly talented wannabes following their egotistical ambitions through the artificial landscape of Los Angeles and Hollywood…La La Land.

He is Sebastian, a tortured but competent pianist with a penchant for unfashionable black jazz music, she the eponymously named Mia a struggling barista/ aspirant actress with few qualifications apart from a film poster collection. “Fools who dream”.

Sporting brilliantly devised and excitingly directed CGI set pieces the movie derives its watchability from pitting the two lead actors’ almost pitiful ambitions against their far more attractive and real affection for each other.
Ms. Stone (Mia) is no Cyd Cherise and Gosling’s (Sebastian’s) efforts at both singing and dancing verge on the galumphing but the script and their witty charm keep you thoroughly entertained.

As for La La Land as both munchkins observe…”Not much to look at”. …”I’ve seen better.”…This is a place where success is capricious, talent irrelevant, originality non- existent. It is arcane, smugly self referential…you can spend the entire film spotting where any scene is lifted from…E.T., Rebel without a Cause, Casablanca, the list is endless and great fun to follow.

The remarkable opening sequence is a parody of the Yellow Brick Road, a traffic jam of wannabes going through their routines…”They worship everything and value nothing.”

So is this movie a second rate musical love letter to Hollywood or something very different, a brilliantly entertaining critique of the artistic bankruptcy of America’s dream factory…You decide.

Philip Bret-Day


            Weighted vote 81.07%