By Joanna Langfield


So, I guess you CAN have too much of a good thing. Because Damien Chazelle’s three hour ode to old Hollywood has some very good stuff in it. But its incessant go for it urgency swirls, whirls and, ultimately, wears thin, exhausting itself and those of us watching.

We begin as a wanna be production assistant is tasked to deliver an elephant to the evening’s big bash. Quickly, he learns the importance of Hollywood hierarchy and never to stand in back of a nervous pachyderm. Of course, the letting loose in this scene is only the beginning. Because, we are told, the film business in the early days was filled with excess of all kinds. Those on the inside could get away with just about anything. And those on the outside would do just about anything to get in.

If this is a love song to those times, it’s harsh love indeed. There are good performances from matinee idol Brad Pitt, gossip Queen Jean Smart, Jersey girl who’ll do everything Margot Robbie and the man who falls for her, star on the rise Diego Calva. But none of their characters, while intermittently interesting, are men or women we become invested in. Watching people we don’t particularly like flail about for hours upon hours, through blood, sweat, vomit and shit is, shall we admit, a challenge.

Not that there isn’t some compelling filmmaking going on. Chazelle’s controlled mayhem arches from grand to grotesque, its insistent energy fueled by the period’s fuel of drugs and ego. Dandy production values seduce us and the story, ultimately a morality tale, drawn as they say from the headlines, is evocative. I have sat happily through other films of this length, but this time, I felt my enthusiasm wane about halfway through. It’s all loud, broad and in our faces. And that’s okay. But sometimes, we all just need a little break in the action.