La La Land - Review


5/5

There wasn't a single moment where I wasn't smiling while watching this. Or crying.

La La Land represents the return of the classic musical in contemporary form. It subverts the conventions of the genre and seeks to enrich the dreamers in the world with that unfathomable sense of wonder when they sought out their passion for the first time. It has this bewildering ability to blend fantasy with truth, to inject us with eternal longing and then melt us with the ephemeral nature of life itself.

I had the opportunity to briefly meet Damien Chazelle (writer/director), Justin Hurwitz (composer), and Jordan Horowitz (producer) at a Q&A. This film is truly something special, one that was carefully crafted by genuine artists over the course of almost 6 years. And it really performs. It's the type of experience that you feel so deeply in your heart and soul that you come out with a loss for words.

Romance. Dreams. Humanity. The very pillars of our emotional existence. La La Land has it all and more. I am richly inspired and I can't wait to see what comes next.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*
, because I really want to delve into this.

There were a lot of things I expected from this movie, elements that made me seek out this experience so passionately. I knew the visuals were going to be an absolute delight, and they were. The production design perfectly captured Los Angeles and suspended it in a nostalgic, fantasy realm that I wanted to remain in forever. The bright, vibrant colors energized me. The complex lighting designs reminiscent of stage lighting enhanced the feeling of watching a live musical. And I knew the music was going to be something I would listen to for many years forward. Songs that I would sing along and dance to, with friends and family.

But I was not expecting the intricate love story. The reality of romance that continually hits hard as we grow through life. Chazelle described the efforts in keeping the original ending, one where the two protagonists don’t end up together. He described it as “ships passing in the night”, and went on to explain how all the great romance movies don’t end happily. They are great because they accurately portray a finite romance that retains infinitely happy memories.

Going in, I was hoping for a feel-good movie. La La Land seemed to be strongly inspired by Singin’ In The Rain, one of my favorite movies of all time. In that classic tale, we also find ourselves following the journey of two artists trying to be successful. One is on the decline, one is on the rise. They ultimately fall in love and become successful by helping each other through their struggles. And isn’t that what a movie musical should be?

But La La Land isn’t the romanticized, dreamy musical that I had imagined. Very early on, it establishes the complications of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship. They are both trying to be artists, but in different industries with different goals that could propel them into different worlds. They are both struggling with income and needing to take a far less glorious path to remain in line of their dreams. Mia even has to leave her current “Bogart” Greg in order to be with Sebastian.

We see these logistical warning signs, but fall in love with them anyway. Why? It’s not because they have this “undeniable” chemistry that is propped up by some flashy song and dance numbers. It’s because at every turn, at every struggle, Mia and Sebastian are always supporting each other. Sebastian is reluctant to play in a gig that he’s not passionate about, but Mia convinces him that this is a stepping stone for something greater. Mia is discouraged by her years of bad auditions, but Sebastian will still drive hundreds of miles to pick her up for the one audition that will change her life. And this is why we believe so much in their relationship. We hope that they will become better people, together.

Life does not always let us remain with the people we love. It presents obstacles to overcome, situations to compromise, and sacrifices to embrace. Mia and Sebastian truly want the best for each other, which is why the “I will always love you” in their break-up conversation becomes so authentic. It is something earned through the progression of their relationship, and we take comfort in knowing that their lives have been positively influenced by their brief time together. Their mutual smiles on the closing shot is bittersweet, because it accurately describes how we can’t change the past—we can only continue writing our future with the grace and fragility we learn from other people.

I don’t think that’s sad. I think it’s truthful. And it’s this authenticity derived from a fresh creation that makes La La Land the best movie of the year, in my opinion.

Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian, in his championing of jazz music, explains that “it’s conflict, and it’s compromise… and it’s very very exciting”.

Indeed it is.

8 comments:

  1. Awee I can't wait to see this, it looks amazing, now after reading your review I know I am going to have to go watch it!!

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  2. Thank-you so much for a great review. I'm adding this one to our must watch list.

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  3. I heard and read great reviews about this movie. And to think that the Best Actor and Best Actress went to the actors who played the lead roles, then it is really a must watch movie.

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  4. Well I read the beginning of your post but didn't want to spoil since I plan on seeing this movie soon specially after hearing so many good things about it!

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