La La Land is a curious blend of the old art of Hollywood musical and contemporary romance movie, and somewhere along the way it hit me really hard!
Two people looking to live the dream and excel creatively, one a jazz pianist and the other a budding actress, stumble into one another and embark on a life changing journey.
La La Land is directed by Damien Chazelle whose only mark of worth is 2015’s Whiplash, an incredible and intense look into jazz drumming that landed J.K Simmons a supporting actor Academy award. Whiplash landed my third favourite spot in that very competitive year and as a result I was compelled to watch what Chazelle considers a personal project of his.
I don’t like musicals. As a genre I simply don’t get it or particularly enjoy them, mostly because of their frequent spontaneity with bursting into song, really irks me. So dedicating my time to La La Land is uncharacteristic of me.
The film didn’t do itself any favours straight off the bat, hitting hard with exactly what I find cringeworthy; a spontaneous all-singing, all-dancing music number (during a traffic jam, no less). Random people bursting out of their cars singing in unison, dancing on top of cars, trucks revealed to contain full accompanying bands! I… wasn’t inspired.
Then our two leads are revealed, Emma Stone as Mia and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian and yet I still couldn’t get into the movie. While performances were great and (especially) dance performances were excellent… I just found it dry; another romance where our two leads don’t really like each other but will arbitrarily fall in love eventually. Yawn.
But I stuck with it, and though La La Land is a long movie (over two hours, certainly felt long) I was rewarded for my patience as the chemistry between our characters goes through the winger! Wow. Suddenly the repetitive setup is paying off! The film becomes an honest look into creative people lost at sea in a world not catering for them. Emma Stone’s Mia goes through so much, it really hit me hard and I imagine it would for many creative people out there. A story about living your dreams, a story about being brave and believing in yourself and not letting the world tell you what to be. Someone out there will appreciate what you do.
The film itself is an allegory for the belief its characters share; a 1950s style musical in a contemporary setting, a director’s personal dream. All geared towards: “Who cares what people say, just do what you want to do!”
Even towards the last quarter I was invested in the music. Two incredible songs, one sung from each actor, moved me greatly and almost, almost, had me forgiving the overlong setup to the movie. It is a beautifully shot movie too and the chemistry between Stone and Gosling becomes riveting (in time) and while Stone gave the stronger performance (and considering her fire was fueled by personal experiences, it makes sense!) Gosling had me laughing on more than one occasion.
A tad indulgent and a sluggish start that didn’t appeal to this musical-wary soul did hamper my enjoyment of this film, but when it finally got to talking about what it wants to share to the world, it is dynamite. La La Land is whimsical indulgence.
Additional Marshmallows: J.K Simmons performs here too, and virtually plays the same character as he did in Whiplash. It’s pretty great.
Additional, additional marshmallows: Goddamnit… Watching this trailer again makes me want to like the film so much more! That song is gorgeous.