La La Land
La La Land’s Mia and Sebastian dancing in front of LA’s skyline. © Summit Entertainment

love musicals. I love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I love flashy cinematography. I don’t love La La Land.

That last sentence is actually quite saddening to write. In fact, I was so ready to adore La La Land that, before its cinema release at the start of the year, I avoided all trailers, clips and articles that included so much as a reference to La La Land, in order to avoid any spoilers, no matter how small. I went into the film completely blind, and came out feeling … well, not feeling much at all.

“I never found myself pining for the two leads to walk off into a fairy-tale ‘happily ever after’.”

I certainly didn’t hate it. The songs were catchy enough, the central performances were charming and fun, and the visuals alone were enough to keep me entertained for a couple of hours. But beyond that? La La Land, much like the glossy Los Angeles it tries to mock, was surprisingly lacking in depth, particularly in its central characters.

Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) have enough chemistry to keep the film from dragging, but it is difficult to become emotionally invested in the characters and their struggles. Mia wants to become an actress because … her aunt was one? There is not enough character motivation or development to engage us; why should we care whether she is successful or not when, frankly, she doesn’t seem to care herself?

La La Land 2
Mia and Sebastian in the middle of a theatre starring up at the cealing. © Summit Entertainment

The same goes for Mia and Sebastian’s relationship. In case any of the four people in the world who haven’t seen La La Land yet are reading this article, I’ll avoid spoilers here, but it’s suffice to say that, as enjoyable as their interactions were, I never found myself pining for the two leads to walk off into a fairy-tale ‘happily ever after’.

It is hard to separate La La Land from the frankly deafening buzz that has surrounded it for around the last six months. Be it reviews, Oscar nominations (and subsequent blunders, which I have mercifully avoided mocking – you’re welcome), or general hype, expectations for La La Land were high. Hell, maybe they were right to be.

After all, the film has a ninety-three per cent rating on both metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s clear that the Academy Award judges liked it. I wanted (and expected) to love La La Land, but there just seemed to be something missing, and, for whatever reason, this city of stars didn’t quite shine enough for me.

Words by Oli Cliffe

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