Ah… La La Land. A film so conveniently timed for the Oscars that you’re surprised it doesn’t star Leonardo DiCaprio.
January’s all-singing all-dancing forget-about-Trump spectacular sees obnoxious but good looking bell-end Seb fall for unrepentant cheat Mia, in what can only be described as a sickening Hollywood love story ruined by the protagonists’ early onset mid-life crises.
But don’t let my inherent cynicism mislead you. I loved it! The musical numbers were superb, the plot delicately bittersweet, and even the characters’ flaws became endearing. Hollywood is full of less-than-perfect heroes – who wants to see Bruce Wayne drop his self-obsessed vigilante alter-ego so that he can spend his billions on a social programme to reduce Gotham’s crippling inequality? Seb and Mia are just more people we’d hate in real life but love on screen.
And that’s why I can’t wait to see La La Land on stage. It’s where musicals belong. This obsession with putting musicals on the silver screen is one that forgets what the genre is all about. Film and TV lend themselves to subtle acting, the sort that needs close ups of body language and facial expression, the sort that can’t be seen from the back row of the upper circle. The stage needs energy! The big, the brash and the spectacular. In short, all the characteristics that musicals have in abundance.
There is something about the power of the human voice that means it has to be witnessed in the flesh. We all accept that watching Glastonbury via the red button is not the same as being there, so why would we want to watch a musical in the cinema? Even if the latter does lack the added deterrent of Reggie Yates.
Hugh rails against the dying of the (foot)light in modern cinema and La La Land
And let’s not forget, musicals on screen are normally lip synched, reducing even further the connection between performer and audience that gives the theatre that special je ne sais quoi. The lip synching issue becomes even more prevalent when you pick superstar actors in place of specialist musical performers. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling made a good fist of the singing in La La Land, but they had to pre-record for fear of ending up like Russell Crowe in Les Misérables, wandering through the streets of Paris whilst squawking like a seagull with a vuvuzela stuck in its larynx.
The big dance numbers too are far less impressive on screen than stage. Yes, Ryan Gosling did learn to tap dance to a passable level, but you watch the scene with the knowledge that he probably had 20 takes and would melt under the pressure of performing it flawlessly first time in front of a live audience. The opening scene too would have left the audience awestruck had it been done in one fell swoop in a theatre, rather than cut footage that likely took a couple of afternoons to shoot. Musicals were developed for the theatre and they should stay in the theatre.
As brilliant as La La Land was, it will never be a classic until it hits Broadway.