I liked this movie, I did—but I really wanted to love it. I had seen so many reviews and heard many good things. It sounded wonderful, transportive, and genuine—hearkening back to the musicals of yesteryear. I was honestly expecting an old-fashioned masterpiece. That is likely why I left the theater feeling more than a little disappointed. And it wasn’t just the ending.
Q: Is it possible to hold on to your dreams? A: Not without sacrifice.
Mia (Emma Stone) is working as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot, but aspires to become an actress/playwright just like the ones who breeze in and out of the coffee shop. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a stubborn jazz pianist, obsessively stuck in his purist ways, who wants to open up his own club with the same traits. While Mia constantly cuts out of work for auditions (which are laugh-out-loud hilarious!), Sebastian is stuck plunking out clichéd, cut-rate tunes in various clubs. Both are old school dreamers trapped in a modern mess of the mundane. They cross paths in the opening scene, flip each other off, and then stumble across each other a couple more times before the inevitable. The rest is the story of how these two lovers get swept up, fall in love and fail in life, chase their dreams, and come out of it all on the other side.
My Take: ***(Little Spoilers)***
Because of a few reviews from friends I knew what to expect in the ending. It was going to be a let-down, and I was prepared to handle that. I did handle it. In fact, the ending sort of saved the film for me. It grounded the plot, and the unsettled feeling stuck with me long after I had driven home and was up to my armpits in laundry and toys. That means a lot. Unfortunately the rest of the film stumbled, almost as much as the two armature tap dancers on screen.
The movie started off on the wrong note—literally. Due to some technical glitch I am sure, the sound in the theater was just a fraction behind what was happening on screen. Hardly noticeable really, but just enough that I couldn’t get over it for the rest of the film. So yes, while I can appreciate people bursting into song in the middle of an L.A. traffic jam, I was so caught up in the delay that the opening scene felt completely fake and cheesy—as did much of what followed.
Something I could get behind? The retro glam! I was head over heels for the suits, the shoes, the dresses, and especially the 40’s vibe sunglasses. I mean, nothing says romance like starry nights, street lamps, and a billowy yellow dress. While the setting is contemporary L.A., right down to the Prius, the soul of this movie is deeply rooted in old Hollywood. Swoon!
All in All:
I liked it. I am still thinking about it, which is something too. And I am making a playlist from the soundtrack on Spotify as we speak. It was a romp and ramble, full of all the passion and pizzazz of old Hollywood romance. With that came a few eye rolls and head shakes (ahem, almost the entire planetarium scene). But it also had a brooding, moody, disconnect that plucked at me--bittersweet to the very end. All together it was sweet, hopeful, and devoted, while also being discordant, frail, and turbulent. So while I didn’t love it, I will likely own it once the movie is released—I'll just skip through the long, whimsical, floating scenes and the montage at the end, thank you very much.