La La Land (2016)11:39 AM
Here's to the Fools Who Dream
This review contains Spoilers
La La Land is directed and written by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and stars Emma Stone (The Help, Easy A), Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys, The Big Short) and a cameo sized performance from the musician, John Legend. "A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles". People have been talking about La La Land ever since Whiplash was a huge critical success - it has been on the festival circuit earlier in 2016 but it has finally hit mainstream audiences. With 7 Golden Globe wins, 11 BAFTA nominations and probably a string of Oscar nominations - is La La Land truly and deservingly the film to beat this awards season?
La La Land definitely deserves every award that it gets because it certainly is a spectacular film that is beautiful, well acted, uplifting but also mellow, surprisingly unconventional and is basically film-making at its best - I was impressed by things in La La Land that I did not think I would even notice before watching it. This is definitely going to speak to anyone who dreams to get into the creative industry - the only slight problem is the film has the rightfully hopefully motto that everything works out for everyone in the end but we all know, in reality that is not the case. However, this is a Hollywood production and we could say things like that about most Hollywood pictures so we will treat La La Land like the love letter it is - it is hopeful, inspirational, relatable as well as emotional. Ladies and Gents, I give you LA LA LAND...
The performances in this film are incredibly strong - I like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling anyway but the two have great chemistry and worked really well together. Stone first came onto my radar with Easy A which is one of my favourite films but she kind of lost her way in recent years but La La Land certainly shows she is back on track. Ryan Gosling has never been in a film that I have truly loved (until this one) but I always like him and believe he is a talented actor. Even though Easy A is probably still my favourite Stone film, this is definitely my favourite Gosling film. Even though my heart would love Amy Adams to take home the win for Arrival, I would not object to Emma Stone taking the Oscar for Best Actress as her performance was exceptional - she gets to showcase her comedic and lighter side as well as her dramatic and emotional side. Let's also not forget all the singing she has to do on top of that! This film is truly a win for Emma Stone and will definitely be a highlight of her career. Ryan Gosling is also very good but for some reason, I don't think he will take home an award this time. John Legend also has a small role in this film (and I mean small) but he does a good job when he is on-screen and it definitely wasn't a pointless cameo as his character has a purpose in driving the narrative.
La La Land has these two brilliant performances but isn't afraid to test these actors as both of their characters can be quite unlikeable at times - Stone's Mia more than Gosling's Sebastian. Now don't jump on me because this isn't a criticism - films shouldn't have to gloss over the fact that emotions such as jealously, arrogance and hopelessness come into situations like this because they do so it is right that the characters are depicted experiencing these. I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of Mia as a character - I found her character pretty unlikeable towards the end of the film - Mia was jealous when Seb was seeing success and she was not (her show was a failure) - not only could this be seen through the performance and script, the scene was cleverly set up with a green backdrop - green connotes jealousy and envy - Mia was trying to convince Seb that this is not what he wanted (she was basically manipulating him into stop touring). Then Seb comes back from his fame and still loves Mia - Mia then becomes successful and famous and we see that somewhere along the line, they lose touch with each other and end up leading different lives. Of course, sometimes, no matter how right you are for someone, you have to let them go but I think this highlights Mia's selfishness even more as she was unable of maintaining her relationship with Seb. None of what I just said was a criticism - I think it is brave for a film to unconventionally choose to have not always likeable leading characters. Seb was also not completely likeable - his character came across quite arrogant and untouchable at first - Mia was soon able to change that.
The story for La La Land is pretty simple - two dreamers who fall in love. However, the film did a good job of making it more than just that simple story - it was interesting to see these characters try to reach their dreams and the ways in which they went about it. Their love story was also very good and I think the film cleverly went in full circle towards the end of the film with some editing and shots in the final scenes that were almost parallel to the beginning scenes but this time had so much more meaning to them. What I liked about the beginning of the film is the film set up both characters in a pretty clever way - they are both in a traffic jam and they have an exchange during this but then we follow Mia and what she went on to do that day - this gives us some development of Mia and lets us know what her dream is (actress). The film then almost rewinds and takes us back to the traffic jam but this time we watch the fallout from Seb's perspective and see what happened to him later that day. This helped develop both the characters and I think it also helped make the audience impartial to both as the film was not told from one character's perspective so later on when they make selfish decisions, the film does make you think as you can understand both sides of the argument. There are some weird narrative moments that don't really make too much sense such as when the two start levitating in the Planetarium - this probably has some hidden message but I was unable to figure it out. I have already gone over it but I praise the film for its unexpected ending - I also really like the way the ending was constructed. I like how the audience get a vision of 'what could have been' (e.g the traditional happy ending) but instead the film cuts back to reality - this is important as it shows that not everything always goes to plan and even though you may make plans with someone for the future, you never know what is around the corner but most importantly, love will remember.
The visuals are also incredibly impressive when it comes to La La Land. The cinematography was exceptional - there were so many beautiful scenes and many 'screensaver' moments - the purples, the outfits, the planetarium - everything was on point and looked very good. Linus Sandren is a cinematographer that will definitely be on my radar from now - his previous work includes American Hustle and Joy - two films I enjoyed also. He knows what he is doing when it comes to the camera. One thing I also picked up on which I didn't think I would was the lighting control - it was perfection. The way in some scenes the shot could go from a busy bar to just one person in a room just from the lighting was brilliant - I was really impressed by how smoothly it was done.
La La Land is a musical and one of the things we are yet to speak about is the music! I really do like the soundtrack and I definitely like it even more now I have seen the film. I have to admit, not all of the songs are my usual type of music but I can still appreciate them. I will now go through each track-by-track (scene-by-scene):
- Another Day of Sun - this is probably one of my favourites because it is one of the few upbeat songs in the film. I like how the scene indirectly begins with commentary on LA traffic which I've heard is almost an in-joke with LA residents. The song is catchy, happy and I just really liked the production of this one - it was very cheesy but it definitely set La La Land off on a strong note.
- Someone in the Crowd - I really enjoyed both the song and this scene in general as well. It was another typical musical-esque song but I really love when the girls are walking down the street dancing and flinging their dresses - this is another song I will listen to in my own time.
- A Lovely Night - This song itself didn't really make an impression on me and its not one I keep rushing back to listen to but I did really like this scene. This is almost the 'icon' moment of La La Land when Mia is dancing in her yellow dress with Seb - they do some tap dancing and this whole scene is just really well choreographed.
- City of Stars (just Seb) - The song has quite a ghostly and mellow feel to it the first time it is sang as Seb is on his own - I definitely prefer the other version.
- City of Stars (duet) - This song is the one that is getting all of the awards attention and it is honestly very well done. The lyrics are nice but I think the scene is more important. From this scene onwards, is when things start to get shaken up for the couple and Mia shows her jealousy. I have to say though, this song is not my favourite.
- Start A Fire - This song is the least musically out of them all but it works with the story and the style of this song actually has more meaning to it than you might expect. Listening to the soundtrack, this is the one that is out of place and this is when Mia sees Seb as out of place - she wants him to follow his dream of running a Jazz club so even though this song is the ugly duckling of the La La Land soundtrack, it is for a reason.
- Audition (The Fools Who Dream) - I think this is my favourite song lyrically - it has a really good message at the heart of it - 'Here's to the ones who dream'. I think this is basically the sign off of the love letter to Hollywood that this film is and captures the culture of aspiring to be in the creative industry perfectly. Emma Stone also does a really good job performing this one.
So yes, the soundtrack is pretty darn good.
Finally, the message of this film - what important things could a musical about lovers in Hollywood possibly have to say? Well, I think it has a lot on its mind in terms of predicting the mellow future of the industry - the couple have a first date at the movie theatre but later on in the film we find that the movie theatre has closed down - this is in Hollywood we are talking about which suggests the industry must be really struggling and changing. We are already starting to see glimmers of this now so it is even sadder to think how hard it will be for aspiring actors and actresses to get into the industry if said industry is dying. There is also a message about jazz music and how it was dying out but for it to survive, leading Jazz singers have had to revitalise the genre - this almost hints at what the film industry will have to. It also shows that if things are not working, you have to change it to be successful and happy. Ultimately though, this film is dedicated to the dreamers of the world and shows that it is good to dream and aspire to great things and it also gives a pretty positive outlook on the end result (maybe not the most realistic). I suppose it also suggests that you have to do what is right for you because it is only you that can make yourself happy - even though Mia made some selfish decisions and ultimately came across a little unlikeable, she reached her dreams and is happy. Seb also appears happy so I suppose she can sleep well knowing that.
La La Land really is an exceptional film and definitely deserves all of the awards love it is getting. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry and also manage to perfectly play two characters that can sometimes be unlikeable but ultimately, you are always routing for. Yes, the film may be a little too hopefully and unrealistic but that's what films are for - this is almost a piece of motivation for those dreamers out there. The music is good and the cinematography is beautiful. I have to say, I definitely prefer this to Whiplash and that is saying something because I raved about Whiplash. La La Land is one to remembered and it may be one of the best musicals I have ever seen. Believe the hype, La La Land is spectacular.
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