We’ve managed to see a few films over this Christmas break. Rogue One. Collateral Beauty. And the girls saw Sing. And now, for Mickey’s birthday, we went to see La La Land staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Essentially this is the Hollywood story. An aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone) works as a barista serving drinks to movie stars while she auditions endlessly, never getting a callback. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) plays jazz piano and has dreams of opening a jazz club in Los Angeles. They bump into one another, have a love affair, and eventually attain the dreams they worked so hard to achieve — but in separate lives.

Neither Gosling nor Stone has a fantastic voice. But even so, the strongest part of the film was the music. As a fan of jazz, I hope this movie sparks some interest in this genre of music. There are some amazing arrangements and performances throughout, including some music from John Legend that I didn’t mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the songs with Gosling and Stone. You could tell they had fun with it. And there was an innocence or organic nature to many of the singing and dancing numbers.

But there were far too many parts of the film where I just closed my eyes and waited for the music to start again. One particular scene where the two characters were having an argument seemed to last forever. And in an already long film (a little more than 2 hours), I thought they could have done better with the story parts.

There were quite a few moments that looked great and sounded great too. Any time the main characters were doing their singing and dancing thing, I was engaged.

But the best part for me was how they captured what a composer puts into a song towards the end. From the first note to the last, there was meaning and story. Musical phrases linked to moments in their own lives. Lyrics and licks that tell tales through melody, rhythm, and pacing. And the story ends with the last note.

I really wanted to like this film more. Musical film is rare these days. Some of the better ones from the last few years include Into the Woods, Enchanted, Across the Universe, and Moulin Rouge. And I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I can remember.

The story from each of those (except for the creepy Johnny Depp wolf in Into the Woods) held up better for me than the one in La La Land.

But I’ll still buy the soundtrack. 🙂