If you are just hearing about La La Land, then you may be wondering what it is all about. But, if you have been keeping track of it, then you know that music and dance is behind it.
This is a new film from Damien Chazelle –which happens to be a musical. It isn’t just a typical musical, it is a soaring, twirling type that was seen in the 60s that boasted people like Jacques Demy, and when Francoise Dorleac and Catherine Deneuve walked down boulevards in sherbet colored mini-dresses, while thrilling jazz pop music numbers have begun to imprint themselves into your heart.
Chazelle has managed to capture that spirit which was considered nostalgic in Demy’s day and throws it into present day Los Angeles like he has returned from space and back into his natural habitat. Old Hollywood is where movie musicals flourished, and even though the golden age is gone, this film gives you faith that a girl, a boy, a bench, and a unique sunrise is capable of still working magic.
Quest for ambition
Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, the boy who is a jazz pianist that has a somewhat positive ambition of opening up his own club and defend his music from extinction. The girl is going to be Mia who is played by Emma Stone, a very gifted aspiring actress who goes between coffee shops and auditions, until she heads to the studio lot at Warner Bros. All that they need is that one opportunity and they end up finding each other.
Whether each other is able to make up for their ambitions is the big question in La La Land, but the answer isn’t like you would expect. Behind the unique comedy and over the top musical set pieces is a crisply written romance that has the power to creep up on you until you hit the second part of the movie, where Mia and Sebastian’s ambitions and relationship become really tricky.
Once you have managed to waltz among the stars, like the lovers in this film, the only way to go now is down.
The characters’ struggle
Everyone in La La Land is dealing with their own ambitions. You can tell that in the opening number and you can certainly tell it’s a musical from the start as people start piling out of their cars in a unique traffic jam, and sing about show biz and the grit it takes to even measure up to it.
The enthusiasm of the whole movie is basically manic and the Song “Another day of Sun” is repeated constantly, like a very insistent knocking on an agent’s door that won’t ever open.
This is where Sebastian and Mia stand. They meet seconds after the song ends, and the unique interaction is a honked horn and a raised middle finger, so it isn’t that memorable.
It takes two more encounters for things to really click, but since Gosling and Stone, who have played convincing couples before will leave you quite persuaded that there was some serious clicking going on.
Gosling and Stone
Both stars are really used to each other’s flow and pace that their script just tumbles out and is perfectly formed. Plus, they make it look really easy. Gosling may be the only actor who has been able to look deprecatingly handsome.
Stone, has an audition scene when no one even realizes that she is that good except for us, and it only works because she is that good at giving emotions in seconds in one setting, that that’s pretty dramatic.
Let’s be honest, their dancing and singing won’t jeopardize Fred and Ginger’s legacy. But then you realize that it isn’t supposed to. Even at the points where it is heightened, there is a casualness to it and it just feels genuine and moving.
Truth is that the film doesn’t keep time like it needs to. In Whiplash, the previous feature by Chazelle and Tom Cross, it showed a very graceful capacity for finding a rhythm and hitting the notes and beats dead on, which is quite useful considering that the movie was a drama about a prodigy drummer.
The instinct of these two have sharpened. There is a sequence where Sebastian and Mia hold hands at a movie, which mounts romantic tension, while the conversation in Sebastian’s apartment slips from confused purposes to hostility, and it is done so naturally that you have no idea that it is happening.
It is things like this that make you realize that Chazelle isn’t just an amazing trend spotter, or setter, but a creative genius and La La land is far from being bland and it fits against the cinematic landmarks in the film.
The ending of La La Land as happy or sad will come to the faith you have in an actual happy ending to begin with. Either way, it will send you home with tears in your eyes, a catchy tune in your heart and at least 6 inches of air between your shoes and the sidewalk.