It wasn’t work-of-genius good. In fact La La Land shouldn’t be rated on a four-star system because three and a half stars is ambiguous, but the movie was definitely four stars out of five ****o.
Other write-ups say, often flatteringly, that the stars’ dancing was good, very good even, but not great. That’s the wrong angle. Leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone would have given any level of slick grace if that’s what they were supposed to do. But they weren’t. Even if dancing’s not their first performance skill.
The choreography likely was deliberate, maybe the dancing was designed to not be too memorable. However, I recall the dance scenes clearly, expect that the plan was they were a few steps beyond what you or I could handle, not the spectacle of the mid-20th-century hoofers.
The movie’s opening dance number, which includes but does not feature the two leads, was clever but frankly nothing compared to the opening of the movie adaptation of Hair — longish at 5:43 as it starts seconds before the music and a long moment before the dance.
That’s pretty much the same problem with La La Land’s music. The melodic “City of Stars” theme is memorable and hardy enough to do the work the plot requires of it. But otherwise, we get just pleasant tunes and pleasant wordcraft.
Also, the Gosling character is a 2016-ish jazz musician, a classicist meaning perhaps anything but now (before the ’80s?). The score generally is musical theater style with jazz-swing influence. Continue reading