There has been so much love for this musical that it is difficult to criticise the film without resorting to ‘personal opinion’ or coming across as someone who the film was simply not made for. In discussing the film verbally, I have frequently heard the words ‘pretentious’, ‘slow’ and ‘tortuous’ but more often I’ve heard ‘I don’t like musicals’ and ‘it’s not my type of film’. For my part though, I consider my criticism as valid, since I love musicals and I was really looking forward to this film.
The main problem is the songs. They are just not good enough. No matter how beautiful the cinematography, no matter how good the dance numbers, no matter how good the plot, without good music the musical genre is unbearable. It’s a shame because the cinematography is so beautiful, but as for the dance numbers and plot, you can throw them in the banal category. The truth is the mid 20th century musicals that inspired this film were much more exciting, had much better musical numbers and more interesting plots.
This film revolves around a couple and their not particularly interesting life ambitions. Her dream is to become an actress, which I suppose is perfect for the self-indulgent Hollywood obsessed Oscars, but the story of a girl trying to make it in LA is not exactly original. His dream is to open a successful jazz club without giving in to any modernisation or ‘selling out’, as if jazz musicians are obsessed with the past when in fact jazz is about experimentation and breaking rules. He keeps telling us how great jazz music is, but the film doesn’t give us any outstanding jazz music.
What’s good about La La Land is the very modern approach to recreating that CinemaScope style of films. The film felt fresh and exciting in style and technique when most mainstream cinema is filmed the same way but despite this most of the film was boring and forgettable. There is a sequence near the very end, which sums up how the film could have been. This sequence by itself is a damn good short film. It has more action and plot than the entire first hour, it has better music (all instrumental so no poor singing) and fantastic cinematography. But the audience who would appreciate it most would probably be well asleep for the final part of the film.