‘La La Land’: Review

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La La Land works well enough because it operates within every preconceived notion and cliche of what you would be perceive this movie to be. It’s quirky, sends up Hollywood pictures of yesteryear and has a couple who meet then dislike each then like each other then date then have the best time of their lives then something UNEXPECTEDLY splits them apart then they become a “better” person from that relationship.

Now none of this is particularly bad per se, and La La Land has enough to distract from its formulaic misgivings, but still in doing so the film seems unoriginal in spite of what it’s trying to project on the screen. It so badly wants to rise from the ashes of all these old time Hollywood movies and become something different and masterful, but it’s still tied down by its trite machinations. I mean, sure, it’s not like the two main characters end up together happily ever after or anything like that, it’s not that formulaic, but it does the next best thing by having its cake and eating it too by saying, “Hey, we’re not gonna put them together, but see they’re better off for that and, awww, heck, fine, we’ll show you them together in some alternative world dream sequence.” Because the film is never content on straying TOO far from that happy Hollywood medium, less it get pulled out of its preordained rut. It’s a fine enough device, giving you the sad and happy by showing you both sides of how following your dreams or staying with a lover can work out either way and letting you choose what applies, but it still rings too cheap and easy.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both exceptional in there roles, although I’m quite less enamoured with Stone even when while I still see the good stuff she’s putting out there. The writing and performances do a pretty good job in letting these characters be fun and eccentric without it veering too far into camp and seeming like these are just movie characters spouting these writer-speak words that nobody in real-life would ever say. In other words this movie wasn’t written by Diablo Cody. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but thinking that Gosling and Stone’s characters suffer from Gilmore Girls syndrome, where it’s all fun and charming to see them crack wise at each other and make funny little quips and have all these cutesy sayings, but imagine actually running into these people in real life and you won’t be able to find a razor blade fast enough to get away from these unbearable people.

I enjoyed all the musical aspects, ie breaking into song, but I honestly couldn’t help but thinking that the film didn’t really need any of it and at the end of things it just became more gimmicky than anything. There’s not a single song that stands out (good or bad) and it’s not like the film is worse off for any of it, or that it provides a disruption, it just seems like the musical aspect was force-fed into this movie that didn’t really need that to operate at a high level.

Believe it or not after the first four paragraphs that I wrote, but I actually liked this film. While I hated that it had to rely on so many cliches to get where it was going, it operates so well inside these cliches that it puts itself head and shoulders above what most do with them. Damien Chazelle is a good director and writer who crafts this film on such a grandiose stage thanks to his assured eye and vision that it’s hard to believe it’s only his third film. Everyone behind and in front of the camera delivers this whole package with such passion that it’s hard not to be moved by its emotion and the final grace notes from each character. La La Land is a film that loves old Hollywood musicals a bit too much, it has its own heart, but it just can’t resist the bright lights.

‘Les Misérables’: Review

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I hate to criticize a film by saying “It’s not really my type of movie,” or “I’m not really into this kind of genre” because it’s poor form from any type of “reviewer” or whatever the hell I’m doing on here, to dismiss a film just because it’s outside the norm of your favourite style or genre. I actually quite enjoy musicals (from some stupid reason I have seen every episode of Glee, and I keep watching…), where not only do you get some great songs usually, but these songs can expertly be used to display a bevy of emotions from each character, almost like an aside to the audience. A musical/period film really tests my nerves, especially clocking in at 158 mins., and although this isn’t my particular slice of bread (trying to stick with a Les Mis theme here), I tried to remain as partial as possible.

The one neat and unique device they used was that they legit sang everything, I mean everything. All the dialogue is sung, unlike in normal musicals where they talk for a bit and then break into song, everything is sung and then they segue into “actual” songs. I was unsure how they were going to sustain this without it getting annoying or bland, and it kind of just faded into the film for me and I hardly even noticed it anymore. I don’t know how much I’d like to see of it in the future, but it definitely was inventive for film. I also quite enjoyed how each actor had to sing their parts live on set instead of dubbing themselves over in post-production. This gave it a kind of “raw” feel that symbolized nicely the dirty and scummy post-French revolution world they all lived in. Sure, Russell Crowe may not be the greatest singer, but it fell in line with his character and felt true.

It runs way too long though, a lot of trimming could be made, especially around the Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter characters. Now I get that they were probably a fixture in previous editions, but their supposed purpose of adding comedy, doesn’t really work, and they just become a random distraction that takes away from the main story. While they do tie-in later, it is in no way through any major plot devices or resolutions, just a method to have them re-appear. I don’t think Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe cultivate any new land with their acting skills here, but both are more than serviceable and up for whatever. Their gravitas and experience lend them well here, where especially for a character like Jean Valjean who doesn’t seem too complex, Jackman silently makes him work, where in lesser hands the balance of quiet and commandeering would fall out of favour. You won’t have to go any further than right here to find a bigger Anne Hathaway hater, and no she wasn’t bad in this, but I don’t really get all the buzz surrounding her performance that seems to be occurring. I will give her major props for her “I Dreamed A Dream” sequence/song that was some great, great stuff and by far my favourite part of the movie. People seem to think she might win the Oscar just off of that scene alone, and I hate to say it, but I could see it.

All in all, I thought it was alright. I know that’s decidedly “un-critical” and lacking depth, but that’s all I got. I was a little beaten up over the runtime as a lot seemed to drag on and serve little purpose. There was to be fair some wondrous moments of beauty such as that Hathaway scene and some nice set design and direction from Tom Hooper. Unfortunately, these moments were all too fleeting and the film suffered because of it. Not enough marshmallows in the Lucky Charms.

6/10