Going Gaga for La La? #film review #lalaland

la-la-land

Back in 1975 I left my country bumpkin life for the bright lights of Bristol. So many experiences but exposure to new foods was high on the list. I’d never had a curry, eaten pineapple soaked in MSG or realised there was more to pasta than spaghetti from a  tin. One new experience that really stands out was an American hamburger diner in Clifton called Careys. It offered the classic burger in the bun with onion relish, the thick milkshakes, skinny fries, ice cream in flavours other than vanilla, chocolate or strawberry and, glory be, the American Cheesecake.

I thought the cheesecake the height of sophistication: light, sweet and tangy, with the crunch underneath. I was sure I would never ever reach the point where it felt ordinary.

Now the likes of Pizza Express has commoditised cheesecake and it makes me sad to think these are merely pastiches of that original, glorious, frivolous experience. So I pass them by. Mostly. But once in a while, I see it on the menu and those happy days of being 18 again trick me into ordering the thick white slab. And the first moment, that first taste is great. But then there’s the remainder and it disappoints. It’s not bad, just ordinary. I don’t mind it, I’m not against it but I’m not going to remember it like that first time.

La La Land is cinematic cheesecake. The opening nonsense on the freeway, the introductions to the two main characters are well done. The theme tune a foot tappy number. But it isn’t long before I was thinking about Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers and Cyd Charisse. Sure even they were before my time but wet Saturdays meant black and white movies on TV and I saw them all, the Busby Berkeley extravaganzas too. I suppose this is a homage to those iconic movies and as homages go, it is well done.

So where’s the problem? Well Ryan Gosling for one. Isn’t he cardboard? I mean where’s the animation. Does he ever open his mouth to speak? It’s a bit like watching a magazine cover act. Emma Stone is better – she’s a far better singer and dancer than Gosling too – but even she acts better in her character’s auditions than in the movie. If there was an Oscar for best lip animation she’d get my vote – they’re like watching hairless meerkats at play but otherwise even her happy faces look a trifle lachrymose for me.

I enjoyed myself, don’t get me wrong; it was easy to get from beginning to end without feeling the need to eat my own spleen. The scene where they sit at the piano together is excellent; Gosling is a wonderful pianist and the jazz scenes do make the movie (though is it only me who wondered why it has to be a white guy who ‘saves’ jazz when pretty much everyone else involved in the fictional jazz scenes hereabouts is black?). These pluses are offset against the errant nonsense of the observatory dance and the tedious cliche of the coffee bar.

It’s escapist; it’s fun; it’s got no surprises; it’s bland; and it says more about the dearth of decent movies that it is is up for so many awards than any intrinsic merit on its part.

The salted caramel ice cream was good. And the young woman behind me stopped texting just in time for me not to reboot her phone somewhere tender. Why is hell other people? Because it is!

.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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43 Responses to Going Gaga for La La? #film review #lalaland

  1. willowdot21 says:

    “And the young woman behind me stopped texting just in time for me not to reboot her phone somewhere tender.” you should of done it anyway…why go to the theatre or cinema and use your phone?????? ❤ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to say, Geoff, that this movie didn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t really think of myself as a musicals person. And yet… You brought back a memory. Saturday afternoons sitting with my grandma watching old black and white movies – so many of them musicals. It was also my grandma who first took me to the “pictures” as we referred to them then. Not the most lovable of women, she was nevertheless responsible for my great love of the cinema and films in general and for that I am so grateful. Thanks for reminding me

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ritu says:

    So I won’t rush to the movies then!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review. I had not planned to see it anyway. Thanks for sparing me the anguish. “Why is hell other people? Because it is!” So true. That’s why I spend so much time alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was invited to see it and thought I’d never get through it after the initial freeway song and dance which actually made me cringe. But like you, Fred, Ginger, Gene and Cyd all raised their heads in my memories, and I enjoyed it, giving it a 9 on my own review (but then I liked the old musicals anyway and there was no swearing in this). As for getting my own copy, that’ll be a No because Hubby would hate it and I enjoyed it…….. once.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Whenever I go to a movie in an actual movie theatre I remember why I wait for them to come out on DVD! But I went to see this – thinking as its a musical it needs to be seen on the big screen. I nearly left during the opening on the freeway. Wasn’t it awful. I’m with you on everything you said – yet somehow I stayed and got drawn in and surprise, surprise – I absolutely loved the ending! I think it’s worth enduring for the ending!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    Another movie to cross off my list! I just watched Bridge of Spies (on the telly) which I didn’t expect to like but loved. Sometimes you never know.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m not into musicals. And Gosling singing and dancing? I’d rather spend the time catching up on my reading. Thanks for an honest review. Good to know, not that I rush off to the movies more than once or twice a decade. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Saw it this afternoon and enjoyed it a lot. It wasn’t trying to be anything other than what it was and it was charming.
    Also you get to see trailers – ‘Hidden Figures’ definitely one for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was never a fan of cheesecake anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Eileen says:

    Gee, nobody got killed? No coroners dissecting bodies? No tough detectives fighting their female bosses? No couples panting naked in bed. No F words every other scene. Well, I’m certainly not going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I have this thing about forensic programmes like Silent Witness which I really enjoy but would prefer it if they didn’t unroll someone’s face without warning me. So happily none of that. Panting couples? Only after a bit of running. I don’t think shirts came off on either of the stars in fact. And the language was scrupulously clean. Amazing it found a distributor really.

      Like

  12. Sacha Black says:

    WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT??????? No way???? But everyone RAVESSSS about it. It’s destined for oscarland so they say and you hated it!

    I’m quite partial to a bit of Emma Stone even with the tears. You do hate the criers 😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It’s like her lips have a mind of their own. Her eyes and face are saying WTF while her lips are doing some sort of gymnastic thing like they’ve just worked out that that you don’t curry lemons for a reason. I have expect to hear David Attengod commenting on their mating rituals

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post, Geoff. I’ll give it a miss, then

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Loved your review and wish I had thougth of your choice phrase “cinematic cheesecake”. But I disagree with you entirely, as you might guess I would. I loved this film. It is NOT a masterpiece by any measure, but it is brilliant for what it sets out to achieve (which is one huge self-congratulatory hug for Hollywood). In my humble opinion, we earnest critics often make the mistake of comparing apples with zucchinis, which of course is possible in some frames of reference but not in the world of film. For example, I could not even begin to imagine how I might compare La La Land with Son of Saul. You simply cannot. One is light musical entertainment the other a gut-wrenching glimpse into the infernos of the Holocaust. One is brilliant, the other a masterpiece. La La Land is a fine revival of a bygone genre. Hollywood musicals were born in an era of war and depression and they have been one of the most effective happy pills ever invented. If you keep its purpose in mind, it might just work on you too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I hear you and understand you and yet I can only go by how I felt as I left the theatre. I am a bundle of my own prejudices for sure and while of course I am not making a comparison between different genres in my critique, this feels more pastiche that praiseworthy. I’d suggest (humbly of course and accepting your opinion is easily more valid than mine!!) you are falling into the trap of liking something because it’s a rare beast these days rather than for the intrinsic merit of the idea, story, acting (and singing and dancing – and please don’t say they were better than average because they weren’t – my dog has better footwork than Gosling when he’s waiting for his dinner) and so on. It was nice, a pleasant evening but, like Earth in the HHGTTG ‘the best I can say is ‘mostly harmless’. Marvellous to agree to disagree. I’m seeing Denial tonight and my review of Jackie will be out later this week to see if you agree or not!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I look forward to your reviews of Denial and Jackie.
        There is one point I must vehemently correct you about: never even think that “your opinion is easily more valid than mine!!”. It is not. We are all just fools in love with cinema. Can you for one minute imagine a world where everyone agreed entirely on every film we saw? OMG; what would we talk about? BTW, would you be kind enough to post a video link to your dog showing “better footwork than Gosling when he’s waiting for his dinner”. Definitely viral.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Will do. The world needs Dog Dancing..

        Liked by 1 person

  15. The Witch spake: Yes, their singing and dancing weren’t very good but they’re actors, not troupers like Fred & Ginger or Gene Kelly or Cyd Charisse . Everyone said Fred’s singing was weak but the films are still charming. Why expect people to be able to do everything. I think if it had been made as a straight musical with artists from that genre, it somehow would have lost something, been just another musical. It seemed more real to make them like you or me, not that great at singing and dancing (probably). I didn’t see it but I think Les Miserables used the actors’ own singing voices.

    Love Actually seems to be a whole shop full of clichés (sorree!) which we’re meant to swallow because it’s Christmas. I mean, really – Hugh Grant & Martine McCutcheon??!! Having said all this on your long-suffering blog, though, I hated the opening scene of La La Land with all that leaping about and frenetic activity & rapid drum bashing. Argh!

    Liked by 1 person

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