The ‘La La Land’ review you’ve been waiting for

Ever since “La La Land” debuted, people have been knocking down my door asking what I, a television, radio and film student studying at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, think about it. Every week my email inbox gets flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of requests for my hot take. It honestly looks like the Dursley’s house in Harry Potter when they are trying to stop him from achieving his destiny as a wizard. “Tell us what you think of ‘La La Land!’” they all say, in between bills and mail that was meant for the people who lived in my house before me. Well, stress no more, I will no longer stop myself from achieving my destiny to write about “La La Land.”

First, I’m just so glad the studios took a risk on making this love story featuring two, well-liked white stars, written by a white, Harvard-educated man. It cannot be overstated that this was a risk. Who could have known that this homage to old Hollywood, written by Hollywood and for Hollywood and judged for awards shows in Hollywood, would have garnered praise?

Some people had issues with the white protagonist Ryan Gosling being portrayed as the savior of jazz, despite jazz as a whole being so deeply rooted in black culture. But, honestly, this is art and in art writers are allowed to take liberties. It’s crucially important in art that the artist be given every freedom of expression. If the writer were to have written the character interested in jazz and acknowledge the history of jazz in any way other than a one-dimensional “black friend” type of character, that would have gotten too messy.

I was once told in a writing class from one of the top communications schools in the country that story is universal and you can write from any perspective as long as you do your research. Sure, every person of color in the class tilted their head to the side and gave a look, as well as anyone in the class who has ever seen some experience they live be portrayed incorrectly on screen by straight, white men who were told they were good writers in kindergarten.

But the human experience is universal. That’s why we can keep writing and producing whitewashed stories. As long as universal isn’t two-sided, and people of color don’t start getting cast in roles that could realistically be any race. That would be a bit hard to identify with. But we totally acknowledge that there is a racial inequality in the industry right now. So, when writing just do your research on your story and add a throwaway character of color, and voila — you are not the problem. “La La Land” followed this equation and look how successful it was.

Also, the opening number was just incredible and I sing it every day as I wake up to another dreary, gray day. I can’t wait to move to Los Angeles.

Patty Terhune is a senior policy studies and television, radio and film dual major. She thought La La Land was fine. Follow her on Twitter @pattyterhune or reach her at


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