La La Land :: Spectacular and Beautiful, But Really, Let’s Not Get Carried Away…

Cineville - La La Land
The thinnest sliver of a spoiler if you've seen Café Society. If not, none.

So after all the brouhaha surrounding La La Land, I decided I'd better see it again, because the first time I saw it, I was slightly underwhelmed, and I did miss the beginning. As it happened, I'd only missed around 11 or 12 seconds, so it probably didn't make that much difference. But I felt I hadn't given it a chance. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood the first time. Or maybe I'd just been subsequently swayed by the crowd. I don't know.

Anyhow, I went again. And I did like it better — it has moments of joy and awe and beautiful heart-swelling poignancy — but let's not get carried away. It's just a soppy Hollywood romance, albeit pretty brilliantly done.

The opening scene is amazing — another of those fascinating, apparently super-long takes, but with the most astonishing, vibrant, wild choreography, as hundreds of people turn a summer traffic jam into a breathtaking musical number. So it's undeniably spectacular and immediately you find yourself immersed in this singularly beautiful, colourful, musical world.

Cineville - La La Land


Then comes the romance and that too, is really well done. Both Emma Stone as Mia and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian are hugely likeable characters for whom I found myself rooting without reservation. The songs are nice and catchy — the main refrain got properly stuck in my head after the second viewing, and the seasonal structure of the film keeps things zipping along very nicely.

Then it ends with some lovely bittersweet romance stuff that reminded me of the end of Café Society.

On the whole, a very satisfying, many-pleasured film. Kind of low-key inspiring too, you know — follow your dreams, never give up, yadda yadda yadda.

But really, let's not get carried away here. It's still quite a boringly safe film with a wholly hackneyed plot. I mean, great fun, beautiful and moving and sweet, but you know, it's not that special.

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What I suppose I'm saying is: La La Land being nominated for 14 Oscars is totally ridiculous when Captain Fantastic was nominated for only one.

There, I've said it.

Seriously though, in these extraordinary times, I think we should be rewarding things that challenge the status quo and offer alternatives, rather than just make us tap our feet and smile. 


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The Viewing

The first time I saw this film was at a lunchtime showing at the Kriterion on Boxing Day. I'd achieved a long-standing goal in the morning so I felt like I deserved a treat. Not that I need an excuse exactly, but I did have other more important things I should have been doing.

The goal I'd achieved, if you're interested, was this: I busked. I've been wanting to do it for years, but frankly speaking, I've always been wildly afraid. Which was another reason to do it obviously. I'm trying (at least in theory) to do more things that are outside of my comfort zone. Because this is how we grow, right? I do believe it, so I'm trying. I can't think of any other examples of late, I'm afraid, but busking is a good one.

And it was good. I enjoyed it. I expect I'll write about it elsewhere so for now I'll say no more. Only that I did in the Rijskmuseum underpass - which is the place to busk in Amsterdam - and I did it early in the morning because I knew there'd be fewer people there, and also I'd be pretty sure of getting a place, and I earned a couple of Euros and a packet of biscuits.

But it wasn't about the money. Obviously. It was about the experience. Which I did enjoy, and I vow to repeat frequently just as soon as the temperature begins to rise.

Then I went to watch La La Land, which I enjoyed, but it didn't make me cry and if I'm perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed. Then I heard everyone wetting their pants about it so I thought I'd give it another go.


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The second time I went a couple of Saturdays ago and I sat in someone's seat and had to move, but she didn't fall in love with me, nor I with her, because life is not a movie.

Writing these words on Wednesday 25 January, I realise that I haven't been to the cinema for 11 days. This is not good. But it's necessary. I have been getting things done. I am on the right path. I am — finally — Getting Things Done.

(I have also started favouring double quotation marks and the em dash. Life is a rollercoaster.)

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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