Finally got around to seeing La La Land. I didn’t fall in love with it right away, but its quieter charms gradually won me over.
As far as the well worn “star is born” narrative goes, it’s fairly average (imagine a less depressing West Coast spin on New York, New York), but it really connects when it digs into the compromises the characters have to make on the long road to success: they stumble, they settle, they give up, they dust themselves off, and even when they achieve their dreams, they don’t necessarily get everything they’d hoped for. And although director Damien Chazelle’s attempts to recapture the tone and structure of the Old School Hollywood Musical don’t always mesh with his more modern sensibilities, there are flashes of brilliance–particularly when he takes the concept of the highly-stylized Acid Trip song-and-dance sequence (very popular in ‘40s and '50s productions that valued spectacle over plot) and transforms it into a moment of genuine catharsis.
I’ve seen a lot of arguments over whether or not La La Land “deserves” its record-tying number of Oscar nominations. Does it earn the accolades? I dunno. But it was a pleasurable moviegoing experience, and at the end of the day, that matters more than any amount of hair-splitting or back-patting.
[Originally written January 28, 2017.]