I wanted to like ‘La La Land,’ and I’m the perfect audience. For starters, I love musicals. I also love the idea of resurrecting a dead medium, and given the rise of television musicals, it’s the perfect time for it. And though I’ve kept largely quiet about my take on the film, the Oscar hype has awakened the beast.
‘La La Land’ attempts to remind us of old Hollywood, as a Jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress. It’s a nice try, but ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ it is not. First, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling cannot sing. When I say they can’t sing, I’m being kind. They literally cannot sing. I understand the idea of finding stars who can sing rather than singers who can be stars, but this idea only works if you can actually SING. It’s insulting to take two A-listers and put them in a medium that doesn’t suit their talents just to draw an audience. As a result of this sad fact, the vocals are mixed so low I can barely hear them in the songs. It’s a MUSICAL, which means I expect bright, rich vocals. In fact, the opening scene was also mixed horribly, and I can only assume it was a sad attempt to keep the vocals consistent with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s sub-par performance.On the Fresh Air radio show, the host called this opening scene “beautiful mayhem.” I’d call it a mess. The original song is not memorable, the choreography is EASY, and (as previously mentioned) the sound is lacking. And just as I tried to acclimate to this struggling sound, then came John Legend, whose mere presence reminded me what singers actually sound like, and my disbelief was no longer suspended.
If you thought my take on Emma and Ryan’s singing was harsh, I’m going to to be even harsher about their dance number. I appreciate a one-take shot of their tap dancing as opposed to the chopped-up mess we saw from Richard Gere in Chicago, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are not good tap dancers. As a former tap dancer, I can tell you first hand that their moves were EXTREMELY easy, and I’ve seen 75-year-olds achieve more impressive results on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’
I love the IDEA of this movie, and I appreciate the effort, but it is not good enough to justify the hype. As previously mentioned, I also resent that idea that Hollywood values a box-office-draw over casting a true triple threat. I understand that not everyone is a star, and those triple threats are not easy to find, BUT DO THE WORK. They’re out there.