Wednesday, March 1, 2017
What If "Mulholland Drive" Had Been A Musical?????????????
Remember, darlings, the frenetic opening of David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," where it seemed the whole thing was going to be a riff on musicals? As brilliant as this film was, it is too bad David Lynch did not follow that motif. Because "La La Land" does, and I am sorry to say it is a frustrating experience. All the elements are in place that should have made me go crazy over this movie. It could even have been the next gay cult classic. That it will not be is due to a lack of camp. That it failed to drive me crazy will be examined here.
But, first, let me say I did not dislike "La La Land." At a lengthy two hours and twenty minutes, I was riveted to the screen. Emma Stone does her best work here. Neither she nor Ryan Gosling have wide vocal ranges, but when Emma lets loose on a song entitled "What A Mess We Made," I realized then why she won the Oscar. Talk about stretching your limits. Too bad it takes pounds of make-up to make her look halfway pretty. Whereas Ryan hardly requires any. And his performance is even better. Watch him dance--who knew he was so limber? And his manual dexterity on the piano--that is him, playing!!!!!!!--is nothing short of amazing! Why shouldn't it be? After all, it's Ryan Gosling!!!!!!!!!!
What kept me riveted to this film were the visuals. "La La Land" has to be the most beautiful, stylishly looking movie, I have seen, in years. The cinematography and art direction are so exquisite the colors seem to leap out at the viewer, just like the great MGM musicals, which this film is a homage to. Those, and so many others. Count them on your fingers--"The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg," "West Side Story," "The Band Wagon," and, of course, "New York, New York." I am sure there are more, but the aforementioned stood out for me, right away. I have to give Damien Chazelle credit; he grasped his concept and went with it. He has obviously studied the history of the film music genre. The visuals of his achievement are breathtaking--each frame is like looking at a beautiful painting, demanding this film be seen on the screen. And yet, something is missing. Because I did not come out of this clutching myself emotionally, having been deeply moved by what I have seen.
"La La Land" moves, but is not moving. Ryan and Emma have a chemistry, and the score is nice enough to listen to--"City Of Stars" is the first decent Oscar winning song in ages, but I kept imagining it covered by more accomplished singers, like, say, Audra McDonald. Maybe this is the problem. I wanted real singers and dancers in the Ryan and Emma roles. The ensemble numbers are great, and they work well within it, but, when it is just them, impressive as they are, some magic is missing. Take the famous dance sequence I used in this post's opening picture. This is clearly a homage to "Dancing In The Dark," from "The Band Wagon." Truth to tell, wouldn't you rather see dancers of the caliber of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse do the "La La Land" sequence? Of course, you would! Ryan and Emma--Ryan, especially--give it their best, but the incandescent magic that Fred and Cyd brought to the earlier number is just not there.
I know Ryan and Emma are playing a pair of dreamy aspirants. And Emma shines especially in her audition sequences, which, as anyone who has ever auditioned, can tell you, are funny and dead on accurate. So, the stars have to be excepted as the aspirants they are. But when these aspirants blossom, I wondered why. Had there been real musical artists in their roles, the transition would be believable. I did not quite believe it here.
I wanted this film to be so much better than it turned out to be. And I felt so let down it was not. I would see it again, for the visuals--I mean, I wanted to wear all of Emma's dresses, especially that yellow one--but there are simply no heart clutching moments, like the train farewell scene, in "The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg." done to the strains of "I Will Wait For You," or the moment when the camera first spots Julie Andrews on the alp, at the start of "The Sound Of Music," and the music builds, while the audience gasps.
That's it, girls!!!!!!!!!! That is what "La La Land" is missing.
It has no heart clutching moments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!