I think you can often tell how good you thought a film was based on how much you have thought or talked about the film since first watching it. For example, after watching Frozen, people often spent their time singing the soundtrack. After Lord of the Rings, I heard people doing impressions of Gollum for weeks after. I watched La La Land two days ago and I am still thinking about the ending and singing that damn song ‘City of Stars’ . When I’ve spoken to people about this musical film, their responses have been like broken records. “I don’t usually like musicals, but it was great!” Unfortunately, I am going to have to report back the same thing.
The film is centred around two people living in Hollywood pursuing their dreams. Mia (Emma Stone) is a young actress trying to make it big in the film industry. The film shows an array of humorous auditions she goes for, displaying the brutal realities of the film industry. She faces countless rejections and often feels embarrassed by the constant humiliation. Seb (Ryan Gosling) is a man whose passion for jazz defines him as a person. His lifelong dream is to open a jazz bar that serves chicken on a stick and pays homage to the greats of jazz. However, jazz as he knows and loves is dying and in order to save it through his jazz bar, he desperately needs funds.
The pair’s stories intercept a couple of times before they officially meet. One such time Mia returns from a Hollywood party where the requirement for any sort of social success involves a large amount of brownnosing and little to no shame. The sounds of Seb’s piano lure her off the street and into a restaurant. Mia goes to complement the pianist, but Seb gives her the cold shoulder. A little while later, another chance meeting allows the pair to talk for the first time and a small flicker of a spark emerges. They meet once again and their shared interest in pursuing their dreams acts as a catalyst for love. They encourage each other to keep on grafting through the tough times in the hope that together they can achieve success. However, the very thing that brings them together may be the very thing that tears them apart – I know very cliché.
I’m not ashamed to say I loved the film. Damien Chazelle did a brilliant job of the cinematography, in particular the last scene is as pretty as it is dramatic. Moreover, the acting (and singing) was really well done. My friend informed me that Ryan Gosling spent six months intensively learning to play the jazz piano – this certainly gave his character a believable quality. In addition, Emma Stone’s portrayal of Mia was bubbly, funny and heartfelt. Aside from the cinematography and acting, another incredible aspect of the film was the music. The film always returns to one song, as Chazelle, , says ‘this one piece of music unites them’. In fact, this song is played numerous times throughout the film, to the point where it could have been unenjoyable. Yet each time it is played, it ties in with a different emotion or aspect of their relationship and you are happy to hear it again.
If I could change one thing it would most likely be the first ten minutes of the movie. The opening scene doesn’t necessarily set the tone for the rest of the film. After the first song, I thought I was in store for a big, fantastic musical that I would find cringe at. Yet, the film has a lot of talking scenes that develops the story and characters better than songs alone could. Moreover, as I have said, the music within the film is brilliant and Seb’s passion for music has left me listening to jazz playlists on repeat.
Indeed, La La Land manages to be charming, heart-wrenching and funny at different points throughout the film. I said at the start that I continue to think about the film even now. Aside from the songs, I think the main reason for this is how it ends. I didn’t know how to react as I watched it and I still don’t quite know what to make of it. Like so many others I wouldn’t go out of the way to watch musicals, yet I would watch this film again tomorrow!