I went to the movies over a month ago. I don’t get to go all that often but when I saw the trailer for La La Land I was instantly enamoured and I knew that I needed to see the movie. I love musicals! I have an incredibly high tolerance for even the ones that make the worst-of list. I love Grease 2, I love Xanadu, I love Mamma Mia and dammit I love The Pirate Movie so much that I own it on DVD.
It takes A LOT for me to hate a musical and the TL;DNR is that I hated La La Land. It promised much but it delivered little. The hero/heroine (should I even bother calling them this) Seb and Mia were so forgettable that I couldn’t even remember their character names and I had to look them up just to write this post.
And the spoiler is early in this one so look away if you don’t want to know more…
You may wonder why I didn’t use a gif from La La Land while we waited for the spoiler haters to leave.
“Here is a film with song and dance!” I hear you say.
“Surely there’s a gifable La La Land dance sequence that has already been giffed” I hear you wonder.
Well…see…no. There really isn’t. See, in my opinion, dancing should look effortless and should flow and should just fill you with the need to get up on the dance floor and want to enter into the cinema screen; it should make you want to dance like the actors on the screen. And with the exception of the first (and only) big number, and interestingly enough the only number without Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, there was no exceptional dancing. None. Nyet. Καθόλο! Completely and totally unremarkable though there were moments I cringed and this is a terrible thing for a musical.
Let’s just consider some of the great musicals of our time. On my 200+ viewing of my favourite musical ever, Grease, I still get up to dance and sing just about every song much to my family’s dismay.
Do I even need to list all the amazing music and grooves and hotness of Dirty Dancing. Every scene is fabulous and then it all just goes off when we all get up and cheer at the final performance – effortlesss, feel good, fucking awesome.
Singing in the Rain just slays me. Every. Single. Time. Dance, laughter, subterfuge, romance and incredible moves that you somehow imagine even you can do those routines with just a little bit of practice. Debbie Reynolds shining next to Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. What a movie!
And there are so many other musicals like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Tommy, Can’t Stop the Music, Strictly Ballroom (though strictly speaking that is more of a dancing movie not really a singing Musical), My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music. Some end happily and others don’t but they all end with my feelings getting out of control.
But La La Land – I am soooo sorry but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dancing looks wooden and stilted and it certainly didn’t make me want to get up and dance along with them. I am sure they practiced and practiced and practiced but, really Hollywood? You couldn’t go with dancers that could act for this movie rather than blowing your budget on two perfectly fine actors – but dancers they are not. Every dance scene made me more and more uncomfortable.
Seriously, Barney and the rest of the cast from How I met Your Mother singing and dancing to Girls vs Suits are better than this whole movie’s efforts and that is saying a lot when you consider the charming yet ever so awkward and gangly Jason Segel (whether deliberately or not, I love how he messes up his steps in that last turn).
Fuck it! Scrub‘s half hour musical episode My Musical far far surpasses La La Land. From Carla’s song For the last time, I’m Dominican, Turk and JD’s duet Guy Love (a fave singalong in our house) to the sobering What’s Going To Happen which makes me cry everytime, it punches high on my musical excellence chart.
Dammit! There are freaking movies that aren’t even musicals that have better dancing and singing than La La Land. The singing in Dumb and Dumber freaking makes me feel like joining in more than La La Land did.
Fucking someone forgot to consult a romance scriptwriter to pull this drudgey movie out of the trite, sentimental, “bittersweet” bullshit story of “the love that got away”. This fucked up story that Hollywood is trying to pass off as a “romance” is just a crock.
The predictability of not having the two protagonists have a Happily Ever After is eye-rolling rubbish. Not providing a Happily Ever After is not “subverting the trope”. It isn’t a twist on the nostalgic mirroring of the 1940s musical. It is a male literary cliché bemoaning the fickleness-thy-name-is-woman which just gives me a brainsplosion that there are still some men whose heads are still shoved so high up in their own arses that they still haven’t worked through their own shit ideas on love and still fall back on the Adam blaming Eve for all that has befallen them.
So really, La La Land is all about a self-obsessed arsehole wanna-be-great jazz musician, Seb (Ryan Gosling – dude, I donnot get the collective squee over you) who meets a perfectly lovely waitress-while-auditioning-to-be-an-actress Mia (Emma Stone – I am part of the collective squee for her) who start dating while she is living with her fun friends and he lives in deep depressive aloness. Then, after dating for some time they move in together, he drags her down to his level, he isolates her from her friends (because seriously, as soon as she moves in with him all her girlfriends disappear, fun times go away and when she is no longer able to deal with this navel-gazing fuckup boyfriend and she breaks up with him she has to travel halfway across how many frickin’ states to hide out with her parents because he has alienated her from her friends).
Seb/Ryan is such an emotional juvenile that he tries to turn her into his own manic pixie dream girl – Mia/Emma for him is all about her prettiness and perfectness yet I felt that there was zero engagement with her as a fully-formed woman with needs and desires. This is the one positive thing I can say about the acting in this movie and that is that a lesser actor than Emma Stone would have fallen into the manic pixie dream girl trap but Emma gives Mia strength and substance and believability.
So Seb/Ryan “imagines” that Mia/Emma thinks him a failure and that she wants him to be more successful (something that she never says) so he joins some sell-out group which becomes successful and when she questions him on his decision he blames her for what he imagines were her expectations of him (gaslighting much?).
Meanwhile, he encourages her to go out on a limb and write her own play and to book a theatre to perform it and then he doesn’t even turn up to her opening night (worst boyfriend ever!) because he chooses to attend a bloody photo shoot where he wears a piano tie and does a white man’s overbite and then gets all angry dude at her for being upset for not turning up to her performance. DUDE!
At this point of the movie I was thinking that it was going to be hard to redeem this guy but it might still be fixable.
But it wasn’t. There is no redemption.
So despite chasing Mia/Emma down to make sure that she could attend an audition (the one that makes her a STAR!), they don’t get back together (THANK GOD! MIA/EMMA HAD MORE SENSE THAN THAT. SHE WAS NO VACUOUS DREAM GIRL! SHE HAD SUBSTANCE, DAMMIT!).
What is this thing called Copyright?
Fast forward several years and Mia/Emma is married to someone else and she has a baby and is a highly successful actress. She is on a date night with her husband when they wander into a jazz club. Yes. The jazz club that Seb/Ryan owns. Mia/Emma immediately recognises that the logo for the club is the logo she doodled at their kitchen table so many years ago. This ARSEHOLE’s arseholery goes well beyond the half life of their relationship! That is HER art work!
So anyway, there is this long scene with music and tension and flashbacks to a life that might have been (had he not been a horrible boyfriend) culminating in an ending where Seb/Ryan is all smug white jazz musician while we, the audience, are supposed to get all warm and fuzzy about their long past love as they look at each other across the dimly lit room.
Oh but that bittersweet moment when Mia/Emma is standing at the Jazz club door with her neon logo shining behind her and a poignant smile on her face as if to say a last goodbye. At least that is the way that Seb/Ryan may see it, the producers may see it and that other audience members may see it. But in my mind, this was not a sentimental goodbye but a moment of calculated rage and her plotting his demise as he is the arse who not only screwed her over all those years ago, but he has taken her logo design. He has stolen her fucking intellectual property and without attribution he has used her creative capital as his logo. While he is romanticising his lost love, she know that she will be seeing him again in copyright court.
Obviously, I am rather pissed off at this movie (so much so that my tenses change throughout this post and I couldn’t be bothered correcting them). I could have borne so many of this film’s faults had it not marketed itself off as a romance and feel good movie. Watch the trailer and everything seems to build to a crescendo. But this is one of the many idiotic stupid things in this movie. It definitely was not on message. There was bait and switch and that is disingenuous.
I’m not a scriptwriter, and I am definitely not a movie reviewer but I am the audience. And Audience Rule 101 is that when you are promoting a movie as feel good romantic you end it on a feel good romantic note. If you are building to a crescendo in the trailer, I want a crescendo high for the ending. I want to walk out of the movie theatre wanting to rewatch the movie, wanting to join in the dancing, wanting to have my heart filled with love and joyfulness at that exhilarating high that a great romance musical can give you.
Instead, I was so angry by the end of that movie I honestly wanted to ask for my money back. I loved the beginning of this movie yet slowly slowly it sapped away all my good will so that when the closing credits started rolling I could not contain my rage and I just shouted out loud in the theatre my hatred for the ending.
But, of course, The Academy thinks it is a wonderful film but in a few years La La Land will just fade into musical blahness alongside Yentl.
14 thoughts on “La La Land: dancing, romancing and in-story copyright”
Not fun at all!
My love for you right now is a wondrous, immense, intense thing.
Your entire rant is glorious, but this bit:
That quote is my everything.
Oh thank you. My anger on this topic has been simmering for decades. It takes a movie such as this one to finally boil over.
Hmmm, I was the only person I know who didn’t see this film … gave up a gabfest with friends at a Turkish resto with raki NOT to see this film as a follow-up to dinner. Why? Could tell its awfulness from the trailer. Also. Ryan Gosling. His face.
I know, right! Gosling creeps me out. I get deeply offended when people tell my son he looks like him.
I can’t regret watching the movie though. It helped me channel my rage at world events.
I was wondering if my aversion to Ryan Gosling was just because my tastes have refined as I’ve (sort of) matured. But no, he is just kind of creepy…can’t quite put my finger on why though.
I am thoroughly convinced!
You didn’t mention my most “makes me want to dance” movie: Strictly Ballroom.
Strictly Ballroom is there! Just under the Singing in the Rain gif! I ADORE that movie. I even saw parts of it being filmed (the dancing in front of the coke sign on the roof top scene which was just down the road from my house!). I also met Paul Mercurio too at that time. It was a totally memorable moment 🙂
****stuck dumb with amazement and envy***
I was too distracted by the gif to notice, I guess. 🙂
So interesting to read this and think about the recent SFR film Passengers marketed as a great romance, failing with women viewers cos it’s really an ode to white male entitlement and gaslighted domestic violence/murder and the producers being flabbergasted that women wouldn’t want to see a movie like that. But really the point like with LaLa Land, is that all this lived female experience is invisible/not relevant to these men with their power and money
YES! This is exactly what I mean!
So I liked this movie more than you did but I don’t get the Ryan Gosling love at all, and that ending. Left me feeling melancholy and I wanted a love story.
Exactly. So many of us wanted a love story.