The opening scene is huge set piece, an explosion of song and dance by a load of young people stuck in a traffic jam on an elevated road in LA. It’s bold, sassy and brilliantly done. Emma Stone is reading her lines and Ryan Gosling is being ridiculously cool listening to jazz. The traffic clears and Emma is too distracted to notice, so Ryan swerves past her, giving her the finger. She stumbles upon him a few more times, they fall in love.
It’s all well done, the singing and dancing is competent enough, and yet… I kept thinking, where’s Gene Kelly? Then I thought, this isn’t fair, to compare this to ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, but the fact that I kept thinking this shows how little the film engaged me, and I am ultimately at a loss as to how the film got so much support.It’s nice, but nice does not win awards. I have yet to meet anyone who’s seen it that hasn’t reached for he pause button to make a cup of tea in the middle of it, or who took to checking their phone. The film just isn’t that good. It’s too lightweight. There’s no great passion between the couple. We keep getting told how much they love each other, but good storytelling shows us; we don’t need to be told outright.
Parallels with the great Hollywood musicals have been made, but they were full of energy and passion. There’s none of that fire here. And the music reminds me more of the fluffy French music of the 60s with waif-like femmes drifting around being cool with gnarly, Galouise-smoking men.
All of which is a shame, because I like Stone and Gosling. But there is no magic here, no grand passions. They seem like friends rather than lovers. This is not a homage to the great days of Hollywood, more a reminder that they are long gone and will never return.