Golden Globes in la la land

Does the year’s biggest on-screen musical live up to the hype?


Peyton Whittington, Managing Editor

The last day of winter break, I found myself at the movies with my mom watching La La Land, the year’s biggest film musical, with the kids popcorn pack in my lap soggy from my tears. A film that can move my Vulcan heart to tears is definitely worthy of praise…but come on, seven Golden Globes?

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, follows the story of a young, upstart actress and a jazz-loving pianist, both following big dreams in the face of big failures. It’s funny, unapologetically romantic and visually stunning, not to mention that Stone and Gosling’s on-screen chemistry is (close your ears, Eva Mendes) pretty much perfection.

One area where La La Land earns all its points is character development. Although each character’s situation is perfumed with Hollywood movie magic, it’s not impossible to connect with them. We’ve all felt like what we do is pointless. We’ve all wondered what could’ve been with that one person. We’ve all thought, at one point, that maybe we’re not good enough to succeed. La La Land took the traditional Disney approach to the “follow your dreams” message and made it more accessible.

Despite these high notes, I’ll be blunt: La La Land didn’t deserve its Golden Globe domination last weekend. It enjoyed immense success with a whopping seven wins, the most in the award show’s history, including Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy, Best Actor—Musical or Comedy, Best Actress—Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Original Song. It shouldn’t have even been nominated for Best Screenplay considering the mediocre depth of its dialogue, and Gosling hardly deserves Best Actor for playing a sadder version of his character in Crazy, Stupid, Love, another film where he and Stone were on-screen lovebirds. The language the actors used in their acceptance speeches seemed like they weren’t too jazzed either (“This isn’t the first time I’ve been mistaken for Ryan Reynolds,” Gosling joked as he received his award, as Reynolds was also nominated for his performance in Deadpool).


On the Town was basically all I watched as a child, so I was delighted to see this nod to its color scheme (even if it was only in my head). 

As much I love watching Stone and Gosling’s witty banter, the movie would’ve been more interesting if the leads were given to actors making their big screen debuts. The film itself centers on an actress who nearly gives up on her dream because she could never land a gig, so why perpetuate the idea of recycling Hollywood actors for higher ticket sales? It’s hard to emotionally invest in a film about dreamers if its casting declined to search for fresh faces who specialize in tap, singing or piano. They instead went with two famous actors for whom none of these skills come naturally. Even so, I can’t deny the pleasure in watching the pure contempt in Gosling’s face after Stone requested he play “I Ran” at a party.

When it comes down to it, however, La La Land earns its keep simply for its visual creativity. The film’s eye candy color palette and special effects were made to dazzle, and as I watched Stone and her roommates twirl their primary-colored skirts down the street, I was reminded of classic film musicals like On the Town and An American in Paris. I’m certain this is no mistake. For those saying that La La Land ripped off traditional musical theater by giving the film a dreamy feel and teaching a couple of A-lists some tap, the homage paid to the classics is evident.

Chazelle’s vision to make a modern film musical was probably a tough pitch for producers, but the film succeeded in translating musical theater to the screen without seeming too awkward. Chazelle made a gorgeous production that any director would be proud of. La La Land is heartwarming, it’s tearjerking, but we’ll all probably forget about it by the end of the month.