In the climax of writer/director Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood musical La La Land, Mia, played by Emma Stone, sings:
“A bit of madness is key,
To give us new colors to see.
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us.”
“A bit of madness is key.” Right on.
“To give us new colors to see.” Absolutely.
“Who knows where it will lead us?” Not I.
“And that’s why they need us.” Wait, what?
A gripe to be sure, but suddenly an otherwise charming movie felt burdened with self-importance. An otherwise thrilling scene began to feel like the opening number at the Oscars. I can hardly knock an entire movie for one lyric, and perhaps last year the bad taste it left in my mouth would’ve dissipated by the time the song ended. But it isn’t last year.
With awards season ramping up its beginning to seem like the lyric that makes me cringe has taken root quite firmly in the entertainment community, with La La Land sweeping the Golden Globes, albeit in the Musical/Comedy categories.
La La Land is certainly worthy of praise. But the praise it’s getting feels eerily similar to the sentiments heaped onto Argo or The Artist, and in a time where America, across the spectrum and as a whole, seems utterly out of touch with itself, the buzz surrounding La La Land threatens to leave the film community looking like a mass of sand-covered heads somehow still staring into mirrors.
It’s a diagnosis that’s entirely unfair as the circumstances are entirely beyond the control of the creators of the film (save the fact that La La Land is Chazelle’s second film about jazz starring two white people), who succeeded in making a catchy and charming homage to the musicals of yore. But for better or worse the hype, and the source of the hype, surrounding the film are quickly beginning to eclipse the merits of the film itself.
In a land where Oscars aren’t so white, Hollywood doesn’t have a history of patting itself on the back quite so vigorously, and the media as a whole hasn’t just proven its inability to check the pulse of the country with any accuracy, La La Land is a film that could be judged on its own merits. And its merits far outweigh any of its shortcomings. The place one could most savor La La Land would be in… you know. (Boy I really worked for that one, huh?)
La La Land never got me in the gut, so to speak, but it is an exemplary film of the ilk no longer seen in cinema today. Unfortunately it’s in danger of becoming the victim of a community that seems to be high-fiving itself in an echo chamber when it should be soul searching.