GaGa For LaLa
Last night, I went GaGa for LaLaLand. I really didn't know much about it - but I had surmised that it took place in "Hollywood" - and I was correct in that surmisation. A cutesy struggling actress, a gifted jazz player in a rough patch, and lots of mumbly jazzy (sometimes difficult to understand but totally enjoyable) musical numbers... Oh yeah, it's a musical. I was not expecting that. The first scene is a BIG ensemble number that (according to Kevin) shut down the freeway exit to LAX for 3 days. I love LA and I love "Hollywood, but especially so now that I've visited. It's no longer an abstract fairy land - it's a literal fairy land with landmarks that I can clearly identify in films. A lot of the movie was shot around Griffith Observatory - which, if you've seen any TV from the late 70's/early 80's, you've seen the location - Dukes of Hazzard, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlie's Angels - but also movies like Grease and Rebel Without a Cause.
I wouldn't call the film a standard romantic musical, because it's not. As the opening number... opened... I wasn't really impressed. I thought, "oh, it's a musical..." and then, "but not a very good one..." and then, "oh, it's not a typical musical..." and then, "therefore, I dig it." It does contain a few beautiful songs, but again, this isn't a standard musical with big belting numbers and a 1,2,3, formula. Southpark: Bigger, Longer, Uncut is more of a traditional musical than this.
The actors do a fine job - even with the singing. I expected a little more of Ryan Gosling, since he has a background in triple-threat-ness, but he did a solid job. Emma Stone is fun playing an actress. It's always tense for me to watch actors pretend to be actors doing auditions. Auditions are bad enough on their own! John Legend has a fairly significant part in the film and brings a seductive ease to the role. He's a natural on screen - although, I was kinda like, "is that what he looks like close-up?"
Where the film really takes off is through dance. There are several beautifully choreographed dance numbers - one (maybe two) at Griffith Observatory
- and they are just as pivotal and important as any dialog spoken or lyric sung. One particular routine is very reminiscent of Vincent Minelli's An American in Paris. (Did I have a perm in this pic??)
Ultimately, the movie moves along without too much tension. Even when the "boy loses girl" part arrives, it doesn't last long enough or have enough punch to really create tension... but there is a moment, which I will not reveal... near the end... when through a beautiful montage, the movie squeezes the tears from your eyes like a lemon. For a moment, you feel like you're being duped - Fight Clubbed or Six Senced... but you're not... and that's when the waterworks happen. When you realize that even in LaLaLand - where dreams come true - everyone doesn't live happily ever after.