I watched La La Land just over a week ago, and have gone through a sort of evolution in my thinking about it:
- During the movie, i was fully in love with it. The cinematography, the acting, the music, the decoration.
- Then it ended. That Ending! I really wasn’t sure what I thought about it.
- Walking out, chatting with Leah, I absolutely loved the movie again – it was chipper and light and lovely and everything I’d wanted in the movie when I was walking into it: it met – and exceeded – all my expectations.
- Over the week, I kept thinking about the movie, and, slowly, a comparison came to me. Have you ever seen the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same? If you haven’t, don’t. If you’re not a Led Zeppelin fan, there’s no reason to. If you are, don’t: nothing destroys your heroes like humanizing them. However, I think there’s a lot of similarities between some principals at play. The Song Remains the Same is a display of musical virtuosity: Musicians at their best, knowing this, and playing with that fact. It is both stunning, amazing and worst kind of Music-God onanism – guitar solos, drum solos, weird “ahh”ing vocal solos.
La La Land is that. Damien Chazzelle is Really. Really. Good – and he knows it. And this film is film-making wankery at its very worst. It is so self-knowning, and winking and mannered. So yes, it is amazing and wonderful to watch – in the moment – but, like unnecessary guitar solos, afterwards, it leaves you annoyed.
- It strikes me (now) as incredibly sexist: Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), careens through this film, ending up getting almost exactly what he wanted at the beginning of the film. While he ostensibly takes actions for Mia (Emma Stone), he still never sacrifices for him. Both he and Mia are performers, and yet, somehow, he never once sees her perform, while her story arc is continuously informed and catalyzed by her watching him perform. She has to give so much of herself – to him, to her career – and he doesn’t really give anything. Even his so-called sacrifice (taking a job he doesn’t really want so she’ll see him as a success), is wildly successful, and leads directly to him reaching his own goals.
- Still though, that ending. I could probably watch that end-sequence 100s of times, never tire of it, never not see/think something slightly different. Even as I write, I both hated and loved the ending, and, following on from that, everything that precedes it.