So tonight, after a long weekend of holiday parties, I got to sneak out to the theatre to see “La La Land.” I was super excited because, I admit, I love musicals, they hold a special place in my life. I said many times that… probably John Travolta in “Grease,” is first reason why I wanted to become an actor. Anyhow, I love that musicals have made their way back into Hollywood, with all the live events of revival musicals on television and even dating back to “Moulin Rouge,” weaving in pop songs to tell the story. I was excited for this film to come out.
Some disclaimers, I always thought Justin Timberlake should be doing musical films, he is a true triple threat, (singing, acting & dance) but I mean, you got to take Ryan Gosling, JT may be a better dancer and singer, but Ryan has some of my favorite performances in the last few years. And hey, they were mousekateers together back in the day on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” (a show I auditioned for in my youth and didn’t make the cut) Also, I am a fan of Emma Stone, despite her being cast as a half Asian girl in “Aloha,” I’ve always found her adorable and an actor, like Gosling, who to me is infinitely watchable on screen, partially because they take risk in they’re performances and make quirky choices in their work.
So the movie… I watched the film tonight, in the company of my brothers and a friend who is an accomplished dancer who’s appeared on stage in Broadway touring shows. So, you know the conversation after this flick is going to be fire. Ultimately, I really like the movie. First and foremost, it paints LA with the most vibrant colors, grabbing all the old world charm of neon signs and buildings that take you back to the Golden Era of Hollywood, both on screen and in the streets. I can appreciate that, I can appreciate a lot of things from this is film, the references to “Rebel Without a Cause,” to jazz, to all the cool nuggets of LA that set the scene for the movie, it was cool to try to guess in your mind the location of some of those places and think of the moments you’ve had there. I grew up here, in this town, in this business, watching all the old movies, that’s our history, that’s what we studied.
Some Broadway purist are going to take offense to maybe the singing and dancing weren’t up to snuff with the stars that grace Broadway, and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t disagree. The choreography was simple, yet well executed, Emma Stone’s voice was pretty thin when it came to the singing, but she was so fierce to attack the role and all it takes to do a musical. Her acting was amazing, she had some incredible moment, the audition scene in the film stands out. But, it all worked, I thought she was really good. Gosling was great, funny and charming… even when he’s being an asshole… He played the piano so well in the movie, makes you wonder how good of a piano player he actually is.
I grew up in this town and I like the movie because I identify with the story and the struggle of the artist that live here because I’ve gone through it and so have all my friends… we still are! There so many funny moments in the movie that ring true, I don’t know if it will to everyone, but to us, we were cracking up. There’s just an insanity, or craziness that we all have in this city, chasing our dreams and it’s in there in this movie, with these these two characters. Beautiful, romantic… heart breaking, I mean, that’s LA, that’s Hollywood.
Now I like it… I really like it… but there’s other feelings that rise up in me when I watch the film. It’s stylized and beautiful and shows an LA story, but ultimately it’s pretty light weight. It portrays an almost “lily white” Hollywood, a Hollywood from yesteryear. And I understand, that’s the look they were probably going for, but you can see that they tried to add ethnicity in the film with John Legend and the sister marrying an African American, but it all felt a bit token. I mean, this is LA, one of the most diverse cities in the world. And with the climate of musicals like “Hamilton,” and just where we are as a nation in this moment, the film feels a bit vanilla.
And as charming as the film is, and it is very charming, I would love to see some actors with some big voices and major dance chops to do some of the songs and dance numbers. Even though they are both fine actors, sometimes you can see a musical performance and be impacted by that powerful voice or blown away by the skill and grace of that special dancer, some of the numbers left you with a wanting for that feeling.
But non the less, I really enjoyed the movie and I’m sure it will be well received during awards season and rightfully so. And I loved it’s point of view on love… that last sequence really resonated with me. (No spoilers) I’d like to think that relationships that were important to you, we’re just as important to them, and we all play that “what if?” game in our head.
I’m just laying in bed thinking about the movie. I know some who follow this blog see that I haven’t posted in awhile. Life has been crazy, I’m just trying to write more, using my blog to get some thoughts out there. There’s going to be a lot of stuff going on in the new year, so I need to getting my writing appetite back… so, I’m just writing. Thank you for reading. -Dante