How many of you have ever felt personally victimised by Damien Chazelle? A follow-up to the brilliantly tense and passionate Whiplash, I went into the director's latest film, a romantic musical comedy-drama set in Los Angeles, thinking I was about to enjoy a classic love story. That's what the trailer led us to believe. (In fact, it cheekily highlighted moments from the film's final 'what could have been' sequence rather than its actual events.)
In the vein of '90s and '00s films such as My Best Friend's Wedding and The Break-Up, we were handed an anti-Hollywood love story. I should have guessed. The references to Casablanca were just one of the clues hinting that Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) were not going to make it. In some ways, it was traditional Hollywood, and I'm adult enough to acknowledge that.
But La La Land's dream-like quality and excessively cheerful opening scene seemed to suggest we'd be rewarded with a happy ending. The magic, the tap dancing, the stars: it all pointed to fate, serendipitous love. To spoil the best 'our song' a couple has ever shared, and mislead the audience by appearing to follow a predictable structure with a break-up in the middle, felt like emotional betrayal.
I understand the message of the film was that relationships doesn't always last forever, but can nevertheless profoundly change you in positive ways and that's honest and good. Oh yes, it's ever so mature and grown-up. But how could you (yes you, Damien) promise a fantasy, then punch me in the gut with a huge and hurtful heap of reality? That is just cruel.
(Surprised by my score? I loved most of the film. That's why I was so devastated. And I will never see it again.)