I finally got to watch ‘La La Land’ (courtesy of Netflix) last night.
No, I have no ambitions to be a film critic, and no, I do not normally write this type of comment, do I? So why, this time?
Two reasons. The first concerns my personal balloon, and the puncturing thereof; the second, a strange reluctance to dispose of the deflated remains. I am normally a tidy person, so hanging onto a useless balloon is very odd.
I am a romantic: I favour boy-meets-girl comedies over action movies. Little Tom Cruise cavorting with women twice his size and swinging from long bits of rope bores me. I have space in my imagination for the wizardry of ‘Industrial Light and Magic’, less patience with a power-mad pyrotechnics team and cars that explode for no apparent reason. Musicals? I was raised on them. My early diet comprised lengthy thirty-years-old doses of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire and…Fred Astaire. I even enjoyed the work of Gene Kelly, despite a truck driver look to his dancing which made him extremely hazardous to small insects.
‘La La Land’, I was told, was a determined effort to resurrect the golden age of the musical; so I should have loved it. Having successfully carried my enjoyment of the musical – ‘Cabaret’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘The Glums’ (sorry, ‘Les Miserables’) into adulthood, I should have celebrated a lavishly presented American return to the genre, and yet…
Was it the plot? That piquant homage to predecessors like ‘Once’ or ‘Parapluies De Cherbourg’ is notoriously difficult to replicate musically and impossible to disguise once it starts to roll out; so anyone could guess the ending after the first reel. Was it the production – that famous and lavish flyover scene in which I spent less time watching the dancing and more harbouring an evil hope that someone might actually jump the wrong way and fall off? Or was it the lack of a memorable theme that sticks in my mind and makes me hum it for days, weeks, even years afterwards? A theme like ‘Falling Slowly’, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, or ‘I Will Wait For You’?
I was left disappointingly dry-eyed at the end of the movie, wondering if it would have been better filmed in monochrome, or maybe divorced from its obsession with car parks. I couldn’t empathise with the characters, or the fog that surrounded them – Ryan who did not look remotely like a ‘Sebastian’, or advocate such passion for Jazz as might have made me feel betrayed when he underwent his conversion.
Anyway, I know I’m a year after the event, that everybody who could possibly want to has seen the film, but that is where I strike up against my second reason: exactly why I have chosen to make ‘La La Land’ my subject here. You see, I am wondering what it is that is preventing me from trashing that punctured balloon? Why can’t I walk away from it, and what strange compulsion makes me want to watch the blessed thing again? Why am I confident I will remember it six months from now, when I cannot even recollect the music?
And I wonder – am I the only one with this odd malady?