La La Land took £6 million at the box office on its opening weekend, and is a favourite to win Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday. But is it as must-see as 'everyone' says or just overrated gloss? Two film writers battle it out.
A joyous escape of a movie, says Glamour's Entertainment Editor Helen Whitaker
La La Land is the story of an aspiring actress and a jazz musician who fall in love while yearning to make it in Hollywood. It’s also won seven Golden Globes and is on course to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Which if nothing else is a welcome change from the gritty tale of machismo struggle (zzzzzz) that usually picks up the Oscar gong.
Right now I don’t want to watch a movie where the main character method acts his way through a sub-zero landscape while grunting about the hard realities of life. I want an escape hatch from a world where Donald Trump is going to be the president.
And La La Land is just that. From its big opening scene, where a giant cast of extras turn the hell that is gridlocked LA traffic into an all-singing, all-dancing musical event, it had me. Swerving the usual clichés that tip musicals into naff territory, the snappy dialogue has more in common with a 30s screwball comedy than, say, Mamma Mia, where everyone bursts into song all the time, and and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry is off the charts. It’s drenched in primary colours and treads the right balance of wistful nostalgia and exuberant singing. It also references a dozen other classic movies, like Rebel Without a Cause and Casablanca, that make you want to re-watch them, like, stat.
I honestly think if you don’t like it, you have no joy in your soul. And this year of all years, don’t we need a little bit more of that?
More like Blah Blah Land, says film critic Anna Smith
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate La La Land - I loved the opening number, the meet-cute and I’m not immune to Gosling’s charms. The first time I saw it I was swept away by the big numbers, and oh, that ending - but I definitely felt it was too long, with too much wallowing in Sebastian’s elitism-induced misery.
The second time I watched it, I hoped to spot moments of genius I'd missed. But it turns out that La La Land is all show. Once the will-they-won’t-they question has been answered in your mind, there’s not much characterisation left to savour. Mia is a Struggling Actress whose travails are amusing, but clichéd. She’s totally ditsy - routinely forgetting about auditions and dates - and yet she’s still able to organise a one-woman show in Los Angeles, hardly a city known for its theatre.
And frankly, the way Mia and Sebastian conduct their relationship, I'm not surprised they encounter problems. She waits months to ask him a key question about his job; he stands her up on the most important night of her life without managing to get a message to her. Quite what these two talk about after the song and dance is over is anyone's guess. And they can’t even sing like pros.
La La Land? It’s more Blah Blah Land for me.
See what other movies are on our 2017 hotlist below