La La Land: Homage to classical Hollywood cinema.

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Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem.

Here’s to the hearts that ache.

Here’s to the mess we make.

We have all seen the classics: Singin’ in the Rain, American in Paris, Swing Time or Casablanca. And La La Land sings a sweet ode on all those films. Films were love conquers all, where songs are sung and life is elegant. After receiving seven Golden Globes, the most any movie has ever won, my expectations for La La Land were skyscraper high. And surprisingly the film did manage to deliver just as much as I hoped for, and maybe more in very unexpected ways. For those who have not yet been introduced to the cinematic beauty of La La Land, it is a story of an aspiring actress and an ambitious jazz pianist. Just like Damien Chazelle’s last movie Whiplash, La La Land is all about the love for art and jazz music, and what are we willing to do to reach our dreams. Where Whiplash was very dramatic, at some points even sadistic, La La Land presented its audience with a sweet romantic story with a realistic course.

As someone who is not too keen on musicals I did not know what I was getting myself into. I love Whiplash with all my heart, it is one of my favourite movies of all time, so that was partially why I was so excited to see La La Land, and the other reason was the cast. Who would pass on a Ryan Gosling movie, especially one where we get to see him dance and sing. Along Gosling we get to see Emma Stone and John Legend. As much as I wanted to love Gosling, in the role of a jazz pianist Sebastian, I was not that impressed with his singing. His first song seemed a bit too pushed, and it make me question my decision to watch this movie, my thoughts on his singing got better as the film went on, and with his final song I was sure that my decision was a right one to make. I still have to admit that the instrumental part of the soundtrack is my favourite, but I cannot say that the singing part is not good. For Emma Stone as an aspiring actress Mia, one can only say, perfection. In an interview about the film Stone mentioned that while shooting Mia’s several goes at auditions for several different roles in several different movies, she kept remembering her own beginnings. I love how rough the film was about the initial struggles artists go through. Even though the movie is a sweet a quirky musical it does not really sugar coat anything and it parts it is still very rough on its characters.

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La La Land is a film for dreamers, but it manages to be true to real life, for the most part. I loved the scene where Mia actually had to change shoes before the big tap number, an occurrence that is not very common in films; usually characters just gracefully appear on screen wearing tap shoes, even though people usually do not wear such shoes to evening parties, but not in La La Land. There is a whole scene of Mia simply changing her shoes.  In this light my only issue with the film was the whole dancing, but flying scene in the observatory. That was just too unrealistic for my taste, but it did go with the homage to oldies but goodies. How many movies ended with the main romantic couple dancing off into the night and across the sky, and then the circular closing of the lens. The film makes little bows to famous musicals, such as Singin’ in the Rain, when Sebastian elegantly swings around a lamp and then breaks into a song. In a different film I might be put off by such obvious rip off, but with the whole atmosphere of the film these little nuances of olden times seemed fitting and frankly quite cute. Mia mentions her love for old classics, mostly because of her aunt who was an actress herself, and spent her times with Mia watching old films, and La La Land is a beautiful modern retelling of those old beauties. It made me want to watch Singin’ in the Rain and American in the Paris again. And with the late passing of Debbie Reynolds, what better time could there be to pay a visit down the memory lane.

What I appreciated the most about the movie is the whole colour scheme. It has been a while since I have seen a movie with such vibrant energy. For some reason in recent years colours became somewhat extinct when it comes to movies and most are very dark with fast flashes of really bright colours or they are quite bleak and pastel. Not that I do not like such aesthetics, but it is nice to see a vivid film for once. But La La Land brings all the bold colours of the 60’s back. There are the reds, and the blues and the greens that make classical musicals such a joy to watch. And honestly make me want to add some colour into my own life.

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La La Land is so different from Whiplash, yet it is about the same topic. Both films are about artists and their dreams and what it means to persuade such dreams. Is life more important than art, or does art become life itself. Where Whiplash develops these themes in a dark fashion, and some more or less graphic and painful way, La La Land touches upon those ideas in a way that does not scare the audience. That is not to say that it is less important. I very much appreciated the ending, where we got to see the outcome all the romantics in the cinema were craving, that is Mia and Sebastian ending up together living happily ever after, but the actual end was so much more than that. I know that we were all rooting for them to end up together, but their personal dreams were more important, and they chose art over love. And maybe art was their love and what they had together was exactly what they needed at that time. They might have get off track at some points, like when Mia went back home giving up on her dreams of becoming a big Hollywood star, and Sebastian’s part in the “new jazz band” with John Legend’s character, Keith, but because of each other they got back on track and closer to reaching their dreams. And I loved that ending so much more than if they got together. As hard as it is to except that sometimes people are meant to be in your life just for a little while, I am strong believer that not all relationships and friendships are meant to last forever. Sebastian and Mia were together just as long as they needed to and then their ways parted, but they were not bitter about it, they each persuaded their dreams and one day they actually reached those dreams and what happens next is life. So in the end they did not choose art over life or love, but you make art, you feel love and those two combined is life that just happens.

I am a bit sad that Mia’s friends were not a bigger part of the movie. It was more or less a two people show. There is no doubt that both Gosling and Stone deserved those Golden Globes for Best Actor and Actress, but it would be nice to see people from Mia’s life before Sebastian in her actual life with Sebastian. They did appear for a bit for Mia’s failed performance, but we did not get to see them at all after that and I was hoping to see a bit more of them and hopefully them being supportive of Mia. There are so many good moments in the film that are something I have been craving to see in a film since I became really interested in arts when I was a kid. I loved how Mia questioned whether Sebastian actually liked the music that he was playing in the new band. A topic that is not really discussed that much, but I think is very important. Art is seen as a means of making money, an artist is an actual profession, and no one really stops to ask whether the artist actually believe in their art.  Just as much as I wanted to hate Keith he was right about making new art, I cannot really agree with the way he has done his share of innovation, but I ended up appreciating his role in the development of the main characters. Over all, this movie was about so much more than a singing and dancing Ryan Gosling, which was still a nice part of the film, but it was about art, and love for art, and what we are willing to do for our dreams. “This is the dream. It’s conflict and it’s compromise. It’s very, very interesting.”  

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