I promise I’ll try not to sound too whiny…
It’s probably indisputable that the most talked-about and popular film of 2016 was La La Land. It has been a while since such a film has received such overwhelming praise from both critics and audiences alike, and we haven’t seen a musical quite like La La Land in quite some time. It acts as a beautiful love letter to the golden age of Hollywood, whilst still having enough about it to remain unique and not too cliché. It praises the Hollywood of the time, evoking nostalgia for those interested in that, yet also criticises the Hollywood lifestyle. It shows that being the best at what you do comes with consequences, and one must make sacrifices in order to reach the heights they do. It’s so much more than a silly, colourful romp through a vibrant Los Angeles, which is why it is strange to see so many critics now turning on this wonderful work of cinematic art.
It would be absurd to claim that La La Land is an objectively perfect movie. Obviously, everybody has their preferences, and as a result not everyone will affected by this film in the same way. Some outright hate it, and that’s okay. However, many media outlets have recently released all cylinders on this movie, branding it as “overhyped”, “a disaster for Hollywood”, and my personal favourite, “every bad date you ever had” (thanks, Hadley Freeman). But why is this film that everyone seemed to love upon release suddenly receiving such heavy criticism?
Well, for one, La La Land was probably the single most hyped film of last year, and naturally moviegoers went into the theatre with extremely high hopes. Some, like myself, were not disappointed in the slightest, and in fact agreed with such positive publicity. However, others disagreed. Many considered it painfully disappointing, as for them it never met that absurdly high bar critics set for it.
Another rather odd source of all the La La Land hate is its apparent lack of representation. The film stars a white couple, one of which is a jazz musician, a genre with a predominantly African American background. Many have criticised the film for being racist, having Ryan Gosling’s white character Sebastian explain a genre which should be more concerned with black representation. Furthermore, the film has been accused of having the male lead “mansplain” jazz to Emma Stone’s character Mia, who did not understand the true meaning of jazz beforehand. Apparently sharing your interests with a person of the opposite sex is a bad thing now, but make of that what you will.
To take a more cynical outlook on society, there is the very real chance that people hate La La Land because it’s ‘cool to hate the popular thing’. We see this time and time again: the film releases and everybody loves it, but when the Oscars roll around and it’s considered most likely to win Best Picture, people begin to find as many flaws as possible. It happened last year with The Revenant, the year before with Boyhood, and Gravity before that. Opinions magically adjust in the blink of an eye and as result, in film receives a lot of criticism.
However, none of this matters really. La La Land has still done brilliantly in the box office, making over a twelfth of its budget worldwide. Regardless, whether you like the film or not, it is surely somewhat heartwarming to see a satisfied filmgoer leave the theatre whistling a catchy tune with a cheerful spring in their step.