Call me superficial, but I like to end each new batch of 1001 additions on a particularly good or significant note. That said, I knew that La La Land was gonna be my final 1001 film of this year before it even got added, and indeed before I’d even seen it. Having loved Whiplash to a ridiculous degree, I was more than eager for whatever director Damien Chazelle was gunning to do next, so I followed the pre-production of La La Land closely, and I figured that, even with it being a musical, I would enjoy it enough to want to pick it up on Blu-Ray anyways, so I even passed on initially seeing it in theaters. When I finally did pick it up, I tried to go into it with as little ceremony as I could, just in case the film actually let me down and didn’t meet the expectations that a film that had just tied the record for most Oscar nominations for a single film would generate. Well, I learned something that day, and here’s the best way I can put it into words: Sometimes, some films, even the critically beloved ones, just aren’t for everyone. La La Land is entertaining, a hell of a production, and certainly one of the best films of the past year. But it’s not the best, and that ended up being the period at the end of the sentence that was my experience with it.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are Mia and Sebastian, two individuals living in Los Angeles with their own individual dreams of stardom and making things happen based on what the town can offer them. Being in a musical, the two naturally meet up on a few occasions and end up together… but ending up together doesn’t necessarily mean ending up together, especially when individual dreams are involved, and both Mia and Sebastian must try and come to terms with the inevitable clashing of their dream versions of making it in L.A. and the reality of being dreamers in a town that’s ultimately just another real-life town. For what it’s worth, almost everything involved in this production is the top of its respective game; from director Chazelle’s handling of the material, both dream and reality, to the Oscar-winning work with color and camera of Linus Sandgren, to the score and songs by Justin Hurwitz. And let’s absolutely not forget Gosling and Stone, both of which are very nearly note for note perfect, even if their performances in the song-and-dance aspects of the film aren’t exactly Astaire-Rogers level, but it’s enough to get you through the film; Stone’s rendition of the audition song in the third act being what very likely won her the Oscar. The one thing I will say, though, is that I don’t really know why City of Stars was picked out as the choicest song of the film, or why it won the Oscar for Original Song; aside from the actual melody of it, I didn’t really find it to be the centerpiece of the film the way the film so clearly wanted it to be, and from a quality standpoint, I would’ve put my weight behind Audition for Oscar recognition if I were one of the producers.
Here’s the thing, though, about this one: it’s good, it’s actually very good. But that’s it. And what’s more, it’s not the type of very good that compels you to want to watch it several times over, at least for me personally; I picked it up for home viewing and watched it the first time, and since then I actually haven’t had any desire to see it again, and I haven’t until just now to write notes for this review. Whereas Whiplash is endlessly watchable for me, and I still get every ounce of entertainment out of that one that I did the first time I saw it, La La Land is just… there, and I feel fairly bad about thinking that way about what was Chazelle’s passion project. I can see why people love this, and I can see why Oscar admired it as much as they did, and I might even agree with a lot of what’s been said about it, especially with the rating I’m choosing to give it. But, even with all that’s been said, that personal validation, that internal gong that certain films just strike within me, wasn’t hit by the efforts of La La Land. This is still a really good film, and who knows; you might get a lot more from it than I did. From all that I’ve seen, though, across the realm of cinema, and from all the cinematic knowledge that I’ve accumulated; to me, this isn’t the cinematic second-coming that it thinks it is.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10
And that’s 2016’s additions in the books. Now then, I think I hear Best Picture calling my name once more.