Going Down in La-La Land
I would think that making a film about life in today’s West Hollywood would be easily bagged and tied in a Force Flex receptacle bag, stretched by inflated ego and self-righteousness – yet, includes well-conceived mockery that could even put a therapeutic smirk on a backwoods Tennessee tooth picker. So, when I heard Casper Andreas was releasing such a film, I was pretty excited about seeing it. However, Going Down in La-La Land falls short of my holistic vision of taking WeHo by its Botoxed neck and bitch-slapping some much-needed sensibility into it.
Starting with what I can only characterize as Gay Scriptwriting 101, a young, gay boy-next-door packs up and moves from Anywhere, USA (it honestly doesn’t matter) to Los Angeles to become a big-time actor. Room and board is provided by the typical every-girl: A frothy, neurotic straight girl whose own love life is continually sticky like a 2-year-old’s face, but who holds an omnipotent power to guide her gay best friend into everlasting love.
Not only are the characters as predictable as the Emmys, their lives are swimming in California-sized clichés, from drug addiction and pornography to gym memberships and repeated parking tickets. If this film wasn’t set in L.A., and because I have a friend whose life once mirrored (except his every-girl was a neurotic, shabby cat) that of the lead character Adam’s, I would have found this movie to be rubber-stamped nonsense.
To be fair, not everything about La-La Land deserves a thumbs-down; the performances are decent enough to hold your interest, and if you’ve ever lived in, or visited, West Hollywood, something nostalgic – whether painful or pleasant – will likely occur.
Remember the drama flick 54, starring Ryan Philippe and Mike Myers? The flashy, stylistic 1998 film about the birth of the disco era had limited and little critical success, much like Studio 54 itself. However, during its height of popularity in New York City, across the Canadian border, in Montreal, there was another disco on the verge of culpability known as The Starlight Club. Similar in portrayal to 54, the large ensemble cast and layered plots of the French-English Funkytown are flanked in strife and hardship … without the glitter-ball flashiness.
Mixed in the sorrowful melee is a young man named Tino, played by Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds, TV’s Shameless) – likely the only recognizable actor to American audiences – who is engaged to be married but has an deep-seeded need to find comfort in the company of men. After tragedy strikes his family, Tino sparks an ill-fated relationship with a Starlight exec named Jonathan. The stigma on homosexuality of the time is deplored by social segregation that Tino finds difficulty in navigating.
Several story lines flow congruently under the shadow of struggle between stardom and irrelevance, and each manifests into something almost tangible, measured by our many insecurities – albeit oftentimes stark and relentless. Gay screenwriter Steve Galluccio and director Daniel Roby bring to incredible life the events of late 1970’s Montreal disco scene with a gritty edginess that, linked to tracks of the best disco music ever made, limits you anguished yet wanting to go out and dance.