Movie Review: 'La La Land'
The glory of those Gene Kelly musicals—you know, Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris—is the ease with which Kelly, and everyone else, for that matter, did incredibly difficult things. It never, ever looked like they were trying.
Amazingly, La La Land shows a similar ease. But it’s not in the song and dance numbers. Instead, it’s in the interaction between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and the effortless charm they show as a struggling actress and a struggling jazz musician trying to figure themselves out and figure each other out amid the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles entertainment scene.
Charm, charm, charm.
Both actors have already shown a wonderful ability to seem 100% real while still delivering lines no actual human could possibly come up with, and here they’re at the height of their powers, feeling the excitement of those early days of meeting someone, feeling fear at the likelihood of their dreams never really coming to pass in an unforgiving world, and dancing around each other, verbally at least, as well as any actual dance sequence Kelly or Astaire and Rogers ever put on.
As for the singing and dancing, it wouldn’t be fair to compare anyone, ever, to Gene Kelly, so I won’t. But I will say that those scenes didn’t quite work for me. A number of them are undeniably beautiful, especially a heartbreaking sequence toward the end of the film. But except for one very notable exception, they lack the complete disarming sincerity of, say, someone like Baz Luhrmann at his peak. Or maybe it’s that it feels like they’re just slightly too self-conscious. There’s nothing wrong with them, exactly, they just don’t seem to rise to the heights they’re reaching for.
Most likely, though, my actual problem with the musical numbers is that they diverted me away from hearing Stone and Gosling talk to each other, and feeling that effortless charm. Which, it turns out, I could do all day long.