Quite bad... people walked out
I just came back from seeing this. My initial thoughts...
I can see what Chazelle was going for here - there certainly was an attempt - but it was a big miss.
It's excessive. It's nonsensical in parts. It's an hour too long. It's a period piece where they show little respect for fashion, rhetoric, and attitudes of the time. It's got shocking scenes which are there really just to shock and nothing more. There were maybe 10 people in my theater and a couple walked out halfway and another person walked out after the underground scene. I personally kept wondering when it would end.
However, there are a few good scenes sprinkled throughout. The first time they shot a scene with sound was definitely the highlight. It looked terrific. The music was loud and the horns set a great tone. The cast seemed willing.
It seemed like a very similar story to Boogie Nights - newcomers thrown into what is perceived as an exciting industry, get overwhelmed with it, burns out, and eventually find its seedy underbelly. It even has a buildup scene very reminiscent of when Dirk was going to trick the drug dealer. Instead of a kid throwing pop caps it has Ethan Suplee hawking loogies.
Here's your random stranger's opinion - If you can get it for free give it a shot because some of you might actually like it, but it's not worth the price of admission.