La La Land — Film Review
With all the negative news going on in our world today, one positive to look at is the completely original and romantic musical, La La Land. From the opening scene on the Los Angeles expressway, La La Land is a bolt of energy that shoots right in the audiences’ hearts from each musical number. While this film may not be a full on over the top musical like Hairspray or Mamma-Mia, La La Land actually makes viewers feel grounded and in a realistic setting. Justin Hurwitz’s music is timeless, as I have been listening to it on repeat almost every day since the soundtrack for the film came out. It collaborates a playful musical vibe, while also having the film’s element of jazz in as well. Hurwitz’s best song in the film, City of Stars, allows Ryan Gosling’s character to give the perfect soliloquy as it translates the setting of Los Angeles, the passion he has a pianist, and his newfound love for Emma Stone’s character.
Gosling gives everything in the title character of Sebastian, a jazz pianist hoping to revitalize old jazz and open his own club one day. For the role he learned how to play the piano flawlessly, as he and director Damien Chazelle did not want cut shots with some else playing, or use CGI. However, the real star of this movie is the sensational Emma Stone. She plays Mia, an actress working as a barista on the Warner Bros. studio lot, with the dream of one day being a famous star. Stone’s performance in this film is easily Oscar worthy, as her drive and passion to succeed as an actress reminds us all of wanting the most from our dreams. What makes these two performances so great is that both Gosling and Stone have had real life struggles when it came to their rise stardom. Gosling actually had a casting director take a phone call during an audition, so Chazelle put that into the film during one of Mia’s audition scenes. Gosling and Stone also have one of the greatest on-screen chemistries this generation has ever seen, as they also appeared together in 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love, and 2013’s Gangster Squad. Here their chemistry is as radiant as ever, playing with each other so well, and really feeling a strong love for one another. Their dance numbers, specifically in the A Lovely Night scene, displays this perfectly as well.
While many critics have claimed La La Land as an ode to the musicals of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and an ode to the city of Los Angeles, I see it as a film that connects to everybody who yearns to do what they are passionate about in life. Both Sebastian and Mia have different goals in their lives, and one of the best elements this movie does well is showing the conflict the two have. Trying to handle and maintain their love for one another, while also building their careers. It’s a struggle that is found in many people’s lives. Not every relationship is perfect, and not every path to success is a yellow brick road. Stone said it best in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, winning Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.
“This is a film for dreamers and I think that hope and creativity are two of the most important things in the world and that’s what this movie is about so to any creative person who’s had a door slammed in their face, either metaphorically or physically, or actors who have had their auditions cut off, or anybody anywhere really who feels like giving up sometimes but finds it in themselves to get up and keep fighting, I share this with you.”
I think what this film did well, and well for all other original films, is that the story behind the making of this film translates perfectly to the plot. La La Land’s director, Damien Chazelle, originally created the film in 2010, but film studios shot down the idea. The best he got was a small $1-million-dollar budget, not enough for Chazelle’s vision. Instead he buckled down, worked on rewrites for other films to get his name out there and created the critical smash Whiplash in 2014. The success of Whiplash allowed studios to see what Chazelle was capable of doing and was then given the opportunity to create the film he wanted. It goes to show that in order to get something you want, you may have to work harder than before and be patient. For many people growing up, I think this is a great film for them to see since they can visualize what it takes to make it big in Hollywood, or in any other profession. You’re going to get shot down, fail, get back up, fail again, think about quitting. But it is the persistence to keep moving forward and to use failure as a weapon that can give you success.
The reason why I say La La Land’s success is great for other original films, whether in development or yet to be thought of, is that it gives movie studios more confidence to trust directors and screenwriters. If Summit Entertainment, owned by Lionsgate, can greenlight an original modern musical, then other movie studios can do the same on other certain works.
Overall, La La Land is deserving of all the awards this season. To be honest I was surprise it went 7/7 at the Golden Globes last Sunday, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is going to be a film that people will look back on and regard it as a true classic film. It is a fantastic film about music, love and passion. Yes, other best film contenders like Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea are excellent films this year and should not be overlooked, but La La Land is the one that will remain timeless.