La La Land is an homage to jazz which neglects to ultimately pay any viable homage to jazz
Strolling into the film ten minutes late, I was not concerned in the slightest about missing a potentially crucial bit of the plot. I’m not a massive fan of musicals at all, with their cliché ridden storylines and horribly cheerful/overly dramatic songs. Despite this, I thought I’d give this one the benefit of the doubt considering all the massive fuss about it. I have to say, I can absolutely 110 per cent see why people are so hyped about it. It’s visually stunning, with wonderful silhouettes of the characters accompanying the beautiful backdrop of Los Angeles. La La Land tells the story of a young musician who wants to make traditional jazz great again, and an aspiring (failing) actress in LA who fall in love.
However, I wouldn’t say that it’s the best film of the year, a title that it has been given by many film critics and with which the Academy Awards and the Oscars would agree with (it currently has 14 Oscar nominations, something that only All About Eve and Titanic have managed to achieve). There are a significant amount of flaws, something which many choose not to acknowledge for whatever reason but which I will highlight now. Firstly, as I have just said and is typical in musicals, I did not like the average plot or the over-exaggerated facial expressions and body language. Additionally, the modernity of the film is certainly nice however it’s not in any shape or form groundbreaking.
A major issue I had with the movie, one which I tried to overlook but simply couldn’t, was the fact that jazz was invented by black people. It’s about black people. So why does it need to be saved by a white man whose biggest musical number isn’t even all that jazzy? Why is he such a traditionalist, an idea that is backed up by Seve Chambers who writes in Vulture Magazine about how all the film is doing is describing a “narrow vision of the genre”? Additionally, considering its origins how can the film really justify the fact that all the people of colour featured are secondary characters? Why is the main black person shown to be conforming to society and therefore essentially not saving jazz? This element of the story doesn’t really resonate very well with me.
A further problem I had with the film is the mansplaining and misogyny. In this day and age, why on earth does director Damien Chazelle feel the need to make his protagonist the hero? Why does Mia need unnecessary saving? A lot of this misogyny lies in the smaller details, such as when Sebastian storms past Mia. In reality this would be incredibly rude and would never ever be forgiven in real life. Chazelle attempts to mask this through the portrayal of an almost ironic amount of passion for jazz.
In spite of this, I do think the film was beautifully shot. There were some scenes where I was honestly mesmerised by the shot compositions and the cinematography, a wonderful feat by the critically acclaimed Linus Sandgren. Some could even say that the juxtaposition between fantasy and reality compliment each other quite nicely. Whilst there is this talent, there are also too many problems that relate to the intricacies of the film, and by extension to issues within society to fully be able to enjoy the dull simplicity of it.
Definitely worth a watch and bare in mind that I am in the small minority of people who didn’t enjoy it, as I heard the couple excitedly exclaiming behind me about their delight with the film.