As I am pouring over the latest TIFF schedule and listing of films for 2017, yesterday I managed to find at the library a copy of last year’s TIFF Top Pick, LaLa Land. I had vowed that I wasn’t going to see in the theatre nor spend money on a musical on film as previously discussed. In short I have found Hollywood’s attempts to generate a buzz about this genre to be less than successful (even when such films were awarded the top prize for a film during that year). The Artist, Chicago and others of late have not resonated with me, even when I had seen the film on stage (Chicago was seen by me in London).
Now with Lala Land we have the story starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
I think I entered this film with an open mind. There was the hype to be sure and all the awards, but I was looking forward to it. The story is a simple one; aspiring actress is frustrated by the whole Hollywood scene, when she meets frustrated jazz pianist (Gosling) who wants to revive the dying jazz clubs and music. I did like the bright and colourful costumes and sets. They showed joy and positive energy when so much around us can be down and dark. There are a couple cute scenes. The music I felt was good, with some catchy songs. Still this didn’t excite me, and I wasn’t enthralled. I found the singing ability lacking, and in some cases hard to hear the voices of the leads. They aren’t singers. Not in a Russell Crowe or Peirce Brosnan horrible way, but not accomplished singers. And perhaps that is one of the frustrations, is that there ARE triple threats out there who can sing, dance and act. Ryan Gosling has confidence in what he is doing, it is true, but I don’t pretend that he is playing the piano. Some of it, yes but much of it is done by others I suspect. His dancing was competent but he wasn’t channeling Fred Astaire. It is a bit forced. Like the relationship between the leads. They don’t have electric chemistry together. Alison’s description about Emma Stone’s face is right on point. The math just simply doesn’t add up. She is not very attractive; she doesn’t have a killer body; she is not a singer as we have established; she is a decent actor. Her turn in Birdman as the daughter was one of her better performances, and garnered her a Supporting Actress nomination. She is quirky and simply just doesn’t do anything for me. That she WON the Best Actress award for this just floors me. If you have seen Elle, Isabelle Huppert who won the Golden Globe had a better performance. I suspect Stone won for her song performance when she auditioned for the movie in Paris, and that song about her aunt. Still I remain perplexed. In the end the romantic in me was not satisfied with the ending, but then again that was a twist that was to be expected I suppose. It made sense. There are paths that we all choose to take and they direct our lives and have consequences. The same holds true here. That we have a review of a different path and how things could have been just highlights one of life’s truths.
Despite the gaffe at the actual Awards with Warren and Faye fumbling with the wrong Best Picture card – I am pleased that this did not win. It wasn’t the Best Picture, but then again almost a year later neither was the winner Moonlight. The movie that I will remember best, and re-watch for last year will continue to be Arrival.