Sometimes we HO writers are more Outcasts than Humorists.
I have been watching Hollywood musicals since I could toddle to the TV and change the channel myself. I am a freak for all things Hollywood, but especially the musical. Yes, I’m one of those gals who dreamed of dancing with Fred Astaire backward and in heels and in ostrich feathers flying all around me. I so wanted to be the partner of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Bob Fosse. I wanted to meet Hermes Pan and Jerome Robbins or just be in the same room while they were working. Nothing was ever more entrancing to me than Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, Gwen Verdon, Eleanor Powell…oh I could go on. Because even Frank Sinatra was amazing in On the Town with Gene Kelly. Audrey Hepburn, who had someone sing for her, danced with Fred Astaire in Funny Face.
This golden age of musicals sent every little girl to dream land, dare I say, to La La Land, imagining she too, could be in the arms of one of those amazing dancers, sashaying all over the countryside in gorgeous gowns, falling in love with that tender kiss at the end of each romantic prance and stride in perfect lighting.
Not one of these things happens in the movie La La Land. If you’re going to put your heart and soul into making a movie that harkens back to that old Hollywood feel of romance, possibility, and gumption, and make it a musical, you damn well better deliver. Because half the population remembers all of the above and you’ve got big tap shoes to fill.
You might want to start with your talent. I adore Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I think they are two of the most talented young actors on the screen today. But they are not musical material. Yes, Ryan amazingly learned to play the piano quite beautifully. But that’s where it ends. Neither of these accomplished dramatic and comedic actors is a dancer or a singer. You are killing me with this “Emperor’s New Clothes” attitude that just because they can act, they can sing and dance and act. No, they can’t.
You are dishonest and disingenuous to put that out there. Moreover, in a movie about the hardship of trying to make it in Hollywood, in a movie about actors and their frustration and heartbreak, I must say “How Dare You!” How dare you pass up truly ‘triple-threat’ actors who can sing and dance the pants off of not just Emma and Ryan, but most actors in general. How dare you Hollywood, give these unabashed accolades to a film that uses less than stellar talent to rain accolades on your profession about how talent and hard work and believing in yourself ultimately wins out. Your film perpetrates the La La Land torment that not only can the lack of talent, the popularity contest, the pretty face win, but that we will then pretend this is the greatest thing we’ve ever seen. Have you watched Singing in the Rain? Have you ever seen White Christmas, Damn Yankees, The Wizard of Oz? For God’s sake, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
The story of La La Land is old news, but nice romantic old news. With a talented cast, it may have been worth watching, certainly not Oscar material in light of Fences, Manchester by the Sea, or Hidden Figures. This fan of the true Hollywood Musical is on to you, and I, for one will not pretend this is anything but third-rate and an insult to the dancers and singers with true talent who shut down the 405 in the opening scene and should have stayed there until this travesty ended. Like they say in the movie, “I’ve seen better.”
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Cathy is the author of Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial Caregiver and