“La La Land” is a film that suspends reality, immersing viewers in a world where ordinary people easily drift into song, where time stops for a girl to make a breathtaking solo at a pool party, and for a blossoming love story to unfold in tap dance and song on a mountaintop parking lot. Following Sebastian, (played by Ryan Gosling) an aspiring jazz club owner and talented jazz pianist, and Mia (played by Emma Stone) striving to make it big as an actress in theater and in movies, “La La Land” is a boy meets girl story, tracking both characters as they follow their dreams of making-it in LA.
Writer and director of academy award winning film, “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle with “La La Land” transports audience members to the wonder movie goers experienced with classics such as “Singing in the Rain” and “An American in Paris.” Chazelle awakens old Hollywood in an original script and song. Chazelle and songwriter Justin Hurwitz were roommates at Harvard University. The two had been discussing “La La Land” for close to 12 years when Chazelle first became infatuated with musicals in movies.
Musicals are hardly ever in contemporary cinema, and so to ease the tension of of a musical movie, “La La Land”’s opening scene is in astounding color, the scene unfolding on a hot Los Angeles freeway, the blaring honking of cars suddenly changing into a standout musical number of “Another Day in the Sun.” The lyrics, if listened to close enough, presage the rest of the story, followed by songs that bridge the two characters together, and spread a spotlight on what each character is aspiring to.
La La Land rewinds and retraces time in the opening scenes to track Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, joining in the middle to play out their lives, and breaking once again in the end to see how they pursued their dreams. The wonder of the breathtaking images of everyday LA, pink skies, glittering blue swimming pools, a stunning yellow dress, and the dark starry night of the Planetarium coupled with the intimate moments of Gosling and Stone touching hands for the first time, being interrupted as they are about to kiss, taking walks through the film studio, and he honking his horn to pick her up, become the things of dreams. The musical numbers become more intimate as the film progresses, from the opening big number to the close up moments on the struggles and hardships of bad gigs and zero callbacks.
There is a certain romanticism about the film: about Los Angeles, jazz, movies, and love. “La La Land” pays homage to old Hollywood and classic jazz music. The film itself questions these concepts of how to be traditional and yet of how to refresh a medium. As Sebastian comments about jazz, “it’s conflict and it’s compromise and it’s very very exciting,” “La La Land” too bridges old Hollywood to a startlingly fresh, beautiful, and inspiring film. The ending of the film is unexpected, but is nonetheless perfect for the reality of what it is like in show business in Los Angeles.
“La La Land” is critically acclaimed and now has 14 nominations for the Oscars coming up next month. Through song and dance, the film shows an appreciation for jazz and theater. In a troubling and controversial time in America, “La La Land” provides an escape into wonder, imagination, dreams, love, and passion that has struck a chord in viewers everywhere. “La La Land” is a cinematic masterpiece that highlights the good and beautiful, asks audience members to strive farther, think bigger, and love harder.