If you’ve only just heard about La La Land, you may be wondering what all the song and dance is about. Receiving seven Golden Globe wins, 11 British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominations, and an expectation to win the eighty-ninth Academy Award for Best Picture after earning a record-breaking 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land has caught the eye of the entertainment world.
In the vibrant era of the 1970s, around the debut of the musical romantic comedy, Grease, film scenes depicting characters bursting into song were considered corny and antiquated. Today, however, our generation is immersed in retro musical culture with movies like Pitch Perfect and High School Musical, and television series, like Glee, based on the power of acapella groups. Director of La La Land Mr. Damien Chazelle seems to capitalize on this love of musical motion pictures by staging a lavish song-and-dance film that references old-fashioned styles and movies sets, yet is set in contemporary Los Angeles.
Released December 9 in theaters, La La Land focuses on actor Mr. Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian Wilder and actress Ms. Emma Stone’s character Mia Dolan. Sebastian is a likable jazz pianist who hopes to revive society’s love of jazz through opening his own club. Mia is an aspiring actress and playwright who works at a coffee shop and auditions in hopes of landing an actual acting job.
Having met twice before, first in a Los Angeles car jam when Sebastian cuts Mia off and at a restaurant where Sebastian ignores Mia as she attempts to talk to him, these two characters officially meet at a house party where Sebastian is the pianist and main source of musical entertainment. After spending time together, they fall in love, and help each other achieve their dreams. However, both face obstacles to stay together and achieve success.
I must admit, as an avid moviegoer, I waited a month after its release to see La La Land because the musical aspect of this motion picture originally turned me away. I did not want to attend a movie wherein corny romantic musical numbers revolved around a couple and a happy ending. However, I could not have had a more inaccurate first impression of the film.
Mr. Chazelle’s La La Land devotes energy to movement and music, not solely lyrics. Modern musicals, such as Broadway shows, have focused heavily on songs that further plot. In La La Land, choreography is the priority, and a simple piano refrain can have more power than a lyric. Furthermore, although I was shocked at first by the singing voices of Mr. Gosling and Ms. Stone, I still enjoyed the musical numbers because of the intricate choreography and intimate connection between the two characters, even if their singing ability wasn’t strong.
Overall, the storyline of La La Land resonated with me as it revolves around love, dreams, and how these two elements influence each other. La La Land showcases that although not all stories have a happy ending, there are always people who are there to help and provide happiness along the way.
In addition, La La Land conveys the difficulty of balancing love and success. La La Land did not end with horse-drawn carriage carrying a happy couple, but instead with Sebastian and Mia going separate ways in order to fulfill their dreams. Mia eventually becomes a successful actress and Sebastian debuts his club. However, at the end, Mia marries another man and has a child.
She does not end up with Sebastian, but dreams of a “la la land” in which she and Sebastian stayed together. La La Land transcends a more typical romantic movie tradition by constructing two characters that are deeply in love and decide to break up for the sake of their careers, making it a compelling film.
Mr. Chazelle, songwriter Mr. Justin Hurwitz, and the cast, including Mr. Gosling, Ms. Stone, and Mr. John Legend, capture the everyday obstacles of wrestling with ambition, striving for financial stability, and falling in love. Through touching musical numbers, blissful moments, and a tearful ending, the film slowly changed my perception of musical motion pictures. Ultimately, La La Land is an engaging and important movie for people of all ages to see.
– Kristen Davis, Content Editor