La La Land (2016)
Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle
Musicals came into popularity after World War II and provided audiences with a much needed relief from the issues that were going on in the world. They were idyllic, romantic, and in a sense magical; the Ginger Rogers’ and Fred Astaire’s of that era exuded charisma and charm, and viewers couldn’t help, but fall in love with the joyous stories that unfolded on the screen. Writer and director Damien Chazelle, once again brings his musicality as he did in Whiplash to his new film La La Land, and creates a film that is as reminiscent of the past as it is unique to the present. La La Land feels like an ode to classical movies without being cliché or a copy of anything else. Instead it was a magical and rare film that lent itself to unfolding a love story that was beautiful and exciting to watch.
The film is about the lives of two struggling and aspiring performers. There is Mia (Emma Stone) who works as a barista on the Warner Brothers lot and is trying to land any job in the acting biz and Sebastian or Seb (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist who wants to live his dream of being a working musician. The two of them are passionate about their dreams and relentless in trying to make them come true, but the realities of trying to make it in Hollywood are tough.
When Mia goes on casting calls, the agents look at their phones and could care less about her feelings and when Sebastian tries to find music gigs, many of them land him in cover bands with ridiculous costumes.
In a city full of people, Mia and Sebastian happen to keep running into each other and it feels as if they were meant to meet. The two get each other and understand the passion each holds for their art. Sebastian hopes to one day open a jazz club like the ones of the past where Charlie Parker played, and Mia wants to perform in the movies like the ones she adored as a child. Both of them have a yearning to hold onto their dreams and together they help each other deal with the ups and downs that come with the harshness of the music and film industries.
As the two fall in love, their romance is intertwined with musical numbers. Mia wears a yellow dress with oxfords and glides on screen, reminiscent of a little bit of the naivete that Judy Garland possessed with that of the adorableness of Audrey Hepburn. Sebastian leads Mia in the dancing and singing while dressed in a retro suit and wing-tip shoes. He oozes charisma and charm like that of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Not to say that Gosling killed it like those dancers used to, but he did well and stood out as a true leading man like those of yesteryear.
Gosling and Stone did wonderful in their performances and you could not help, but want to watch them. Stone truly carried the film and deserves an Oscar nod. The true winner of the film is Chazelle, his screenplay and direction were unique and it felt like a movie I had never seen before. He was able to capture the whimsy of those classical films and create a movie that was all his own. Where Whiplash hits you in the face with fear and anger at every cymbal smash, La La Land makes you feel like you are walking on a cloud and living in a bit of a dream.
The music in the film was paired wonderfully with the scenes, the songs never felt boring or too sing-songy like those we are used to seeing in musicals. It doesn’t hurt that John Legend provided his vocals and acting abilities to the film as well. The music was a good blend of jazz and classical and the soundtrack is worth a listen.
I kept on thinking throughout the movie that it reminded me of Casablanca, a film that makes you feel every emotion in the book. I adored this movie and highly recommend it. You do not have to be a fan of musicals or classic films to appreciate it. The film is timeless tribute to a bygone film era and can be enjoyed by all.