Movie Review: La La Land

The landscape of cinema is wide and vast, and sometimes cyclical in nature when it comes to trends. By the time that “La La Land” hit cinemas, musical movies reminiscent of the likes of “Singing in the Rain”,  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, and any of those glorious films in the 1930s, were pretty much a thing of the past. (I don’t count Disney musical films, because sometimes it goes without saying). Because of that, and the fact that I grew up listening to musicals and jazz, I eagerly waited for it to hit local cinemas so that I could go and revel in this movie, which, at the time I watched it, broke records at this year’s Golden Globes.

However, what I did not expect was how resonant this film’s story would be to a dreamer and artist like myself, which was why I ended up crying for half of the duration of the film.

I also came into the film not expecting Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to have the pipes of Sutton Foster, Lea Salonga, Aaron Tveit or Josh Groban, which probably helped in creating realistic expectations as what to expect singing-wise from the two main leads. This actually helped me appreciate the film more, and all of the effort and hard work that the two leads put into the film.

“La La Land”, a film set in the present day, with lots of nods to old and classic films, follows Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), a barista and aspiring actress who ended up falling for a struggling pianist and jazz musician, Sebastian “Seb” Wilder (Ryan Gosling). The rest of the story followed the ups and downs of their relationship, and the trials they faced, particularly when fame and opportunity came to one of them.

Full of wonderful performances, gorgeous cinematography, dance numbers, a great script penned by director Damien Chazelle, and a wonderful score by Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land” is a film that has heart, and that set out to prove that movie musicals like the ones done in the 1930s are not passe.

From this moment on, if you have not seen “La La Land” yet, please stop reading, as we we will be diving into some spoiler territory.

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Personally speaking, I thought that this film was just beautiful, and it hit all the right emotional notes (pun intended)  and more.

Like every artist and dreamer whom I know who has seen the movie, I thought that the movie perfectly encapsulated the trials and tribulations, the hopes, and moments of crushing dejection that happens in our lives. I also loved how they talked about persevering in the field that you know that you belong to, despite all the hardships that will no doubt come your way. It also emphasized in sticking to your principles and values, because, in time, with enough hard work and patience, you will be able to reach your dreams, even though it may not include everything that you once thought that it would have; and even though it may not pay as much as it would if you “sold yourself out”.

I also liked the fact that they did not shy away from poking a little bit of fun at the entertainment industry a little bit, what with a screenwriter explaining to Mia that he was writing  something that had to do with “Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but from a bear’s perspective; and it has to be franchise-able”, and the photographer asking Ryan Gosling’s Seb to make a chipmunk face while playing the piano during the photoshoot of the band he was in at the moment.

Stone and Gosling as Mia and Seb, pulled off great performances, that were very real, despite the occasional surreal moments that were placed throughout the film.

Every artist and dreamer can definitely relate to what they went through, and the conflicts that arose during the course of their relationship. In particular, the heartaches that happen when one’s dreams are crushed.

Mia’s audition, in which she sang “The Fools Who Dream” was poignant and raw, as this perfectly summed up she and Seb were, and what the intended audience of the film are.

I loved the fact that the ending was pretty realistic, with them not ending up together, and not regretting for a minute that they were together, and very much in love, once upon a time.

I knew that this was a movie musical, and I was delighted with the numbers, from the beginning sequence, to the tapdance sequence, to their date at the observatory, to that epilogue number in which they dreamed of the possibilities that could have been if things had turned out differently.

Speaking of that seven minute long “Epilogue”, Hurwitz outdid himself, and Chazelle managed to create a surreal dreamlike sequence that was very theater-like, and that ended up making my heart ache, especially during the “what-if” home videos that looked like it was shot with an actual video camcorder. I also loved the little flourishes at the five minutes and forty second mark, that reminded me of the musical transitions that were present in old film scores.

What I did not expect was the sheer amount of jazz in the film, which made me extremely happy, as I grew up listening to the likes of David Benoit, Rippingtons, Manhattan Transfer and the New York Voices.

However, the film  isn’t without its flaws, such as the fact that I would have liked the opening number to have started out with more of a flourish or bang than it was in the film.

All in all, this was a gorgeous and beautiful film that is a love letter not just to Hollywood but to every artist, creative and dreamer that is out there in the world. Aside from this, it also managed to bring in the notion of movie musicals a la Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Debbie Reynolds into the consciousness of Hollywood; and it  reintroduced jazz into the minds and hearts of Hollywood and movie goers as well.

Favorite Moments:

  • The moment in the first party Mia attends where everyone is still and in slow motion, and then everything comes to life after someone jumps into the pool.
  • Mia’s audition montage and her audition where she sang “The Fools Who Dream”.
  • Mia’s and Seb’s tapdancing sequence and their date at the the Griffith Observatory.
  • All of the jazz moments.
  • Mia’s and Seb’s fight over dinner.
  • The dream sequence while Mia listened to Seb playing “City of Dreams” on the piano, especially how they choreographed and shot that montage with the fake painted sets and all, the seven minute track for it, and that part five minutes and thirty six seconds in where it sounds like and old timey transition thing.
  • The beautiful lighting, lighting effects, and the fact that it was shot like an old film. Also, the colors!

Favorite Quote/s:

  • “People love what other people are passionate about.”- Mia (Emma Stone) to Seb (Ryan Gosling)
  • “Here’s to the one’s who dream; Foolish, as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache; Here’s to the mess we make.” – Mia  during her audition
  • “A bit of madness is key to give us new color to see…And that’s why they need us…..So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, The painters, the poets, and plays.”- Mia during her audition
  • “They worship everything and value nothing.”- Seb
  • “It’s conflict and compromise. It’s new every time, and it’s dying.” – Seb explaining jazz to Mia
  • “ Mia- Maybe I’m not good enough!  Seb- Yes, you are.  Mia- Maybe I’m not. It’s a like a pipedream. Seb- This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!” – Mia and Seb arguing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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