La La Land

Ryan Gosling, right, and Emma Stone perform in a scene from, La La Land.


AFTER a record-breaking performance at last week’s Golden Globes, La La Land solidified its place as the talk of the town. By winning all seven awards it was nominated for it broke the “most wins” record previously held by One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Midnight Express. This brings me to what will undoubtedly become a very unpopular opinion. While I enjoyed the movie, I most definitely did not think it is as great as most of Hollywood seems to think it is.Ê

Full disclosure: I don’t really like musicals. That being said, the fact that I didn’t completely hate the movie counts for something in its favour. In spite of what I thought would end up being a torturous two hour plus movie going experience, I was pleasantly surprised. The music was mostly fantastic, courtesy of composer Justin Hurwitz. I could have done without the spontaneous breaking out in song-and-dance, however it’s a musical, so that’s to be expected.

The direction was fantastic, for sure. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), did a superb job of creating a visual narrative populated by complex choreography and combined with whimsical set design. Ê

For me the stand-out of this film was the acting. Emma Stone, and especially Ryan Gosling, were absolutely fantastic. Their chemistry was so good, and they are both deserving of their Globe wins.

What didn’t work for me was the story. The film is a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, and that love was evident. The film oozed with reverence of all the classic musicals, and I understand the appeal. The plot of the film however was very cliche, in so far as romances go. Two people meet, fall in love, and of course the central conflict of their relationship boils down to whose career/dream is more important. It was boring and I couldn’t really relate.Ê

It appeared to me as though everyone in Hollywood in a position of power and in a position to vote for who gets nominated (and who wins) awards are just gushing over this film, because it’s about them. It’s about how everyone in LA is a tortured artist trying to make it big (I mean, who wouldn’t want to be great like a movie star, right?) I felt like the movie was an exercise in self-important congratulatory affirmation. “Look how wonderful Hollywood is, and how wonderful we all are, and if you don’t make it big, you don’t make it at all, and you have to sacrifice so, so much to get what you want, but even when you get what you think you want, it isn’t even really what you wanted in the first place.”Ê

That ending, though. A movie that is so fanciful and whimsical and colourful and happy, where everyone dances and sings and leaps around, ends in such a manner that, to me, completely betrays the entire tone of the film. I suppose it was “more realistic” that way, but without spoiling anything, I thought it was pretty goofy. If any of my readers want to know how I thought the movie was going to end, email me or message me on Facebook.

Ultimately, this movie was the cinematic equivalent of an Oprah’s Book Club Pick: something that a lot of people probably wouldn’t have seen at all were it not for being told that they should see it, and that they should like it. I don’t mean this as a criticism, necessarily; anything that gets people out to the movies and watching unique and creative art is a good thing, the same way anything that gets people reading is a good thing. But before you gush over something as though it’s “the best”, actually watch it and come up with your own opinion.Ê

In my opinion, La La Land was good, but overrated.

Ryan Mackett is an artist and film enthusiast who resides in Thunder Bay. Email questions or comments to him at

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