This film left me in a great mood once I left the theater. A mood similar to how I felt when I first saw Moulin Rouge. The film is about two struggling artists helping each other achieve their big dream in a harsh and magical Los Angeles. It is most definitely a musical with lot’s of singing, talented performances and surprising guest appearances.
The two main character’s are Sebastien, a brooding, talented and poor jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling and Mia, a young aspiring actress hustling hard for her big break played by Emma Stone. Their chemistry together is delightful, they are playful and funny and heartfelt.
I happen to love musicals so it does not bother me when a character bursts into song like the world is their karaoke stage. But I know some of you don’t like that and to you I say, consider going anyway. The music is weaved into the film in a very natural way. Since Sebastien is a jazz pianist there are lots of reasons to be singing and dancing that make sense so it doesn’t seem so out of place. The songs are usually part of a performance or just between two people to express their deep emotion. However, the intro is just pure musical bliss. Everyone stuck in traffic on the 405 gets out of their cars and starts singing and dancing a great big number together. This is wonderful for two reasons: 1) It underlines this feeling we all have while sitting in traffic, that we are bored and we just wish something unexpected and wonderful would happen for no reason. 2) It rips the band aid off, so to speak, and boldly says this is a musical and we will sing wherever and whenever we want to in the film and you will love it.
One of the things that is super fun about the film is seeing them go to all of the famous places in Los Angeles where I grew up and have visited so many times. They have a wonderful dance scene in the Griffith Observatory, a kiss in the Angels Flight funicular, they watch Rebel Without A Cause in the Rialto Theater, and take a romantic stroll across the lamp lit Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena. The film doesn’t try to hide the dirty parts of LA or try to make it into something that it isn’t. The film celebrates the most beautiful and broken as well.
There are some great scenes with jazz musicians playing their hearts out. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone both sing and I can’t quite tell if Ryan Gosling can actually play the piano or not. John Legend sings in the film and Ryan Gosling plays synth piano in his band at one point. The writer and director, Damien Chazelle, also wrote Whiplash another film about a jazz musician. La La Land is a nice intro into jazz. Mia hates jazz and it is Sebastien’s goal to get her to fall in love with it. In this way Damien the writer also wishes to help the audience fall in love with jazz the way he has. You might also recognize the actor J.K. Simmons from both La La Land and Whiplash.
I think they do a great job of showing how hard it is to be an actress in this town today. Mia is having to juggle a barista job with auditions that go nowhere and struggles for significance in a sea of girls doing the same thing. The film is a celebration of the dreamers in this town that are the real heart of Hollywood. Mia sings it best “Here’s to the fools who dream, crazy, as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that break. Here’s to the mess we make.”
And thus ends my completely unbiased review of La La Land.
Go see it you will love it. Then tell me all about it.