La La Land Movie Review
In 89 years of Academy Awards Ceremonies, La La Land is only the third to achieve 14 nominations. In light of this, questions are being raised over whether it's deserving of the overwhelming adulation.
I’m not a huge fan of musicals, so I wasn’t expecting to be ironically swept up by a film dripping with Hollywood nostalgia in the way many early critics did. When I noticed the backlash against the film’s success, I decided it was the perfect time to go into it. I can tell you that unlike many other of this year’s Best Picture nominees, it was one of the few enjoyable ones I watched.
La La Land is a film about two people chasing their dreams through a world that doesn’t add up to what they imagined their life would be. And it's told through Hollywood’s erstwhile dream of film. I know that sounds corny, but it’s supposed to because we all know what the Hollywood dream is: humble folks from Anytown, USA landing the role of a lifetime that completely transforms their life into one lavish cocktail hour, or in this case, a dance number.
In this story, those two folks are Mia, an aspiring actress who works as a barista when she isn’t running to various auditions, and Sebastian, a jazz pianist obsessed with saving jazz for a generation that doesn’t appreciate it. Mia and Sebastian are routinely rejected from landing the roles they keep searching for, but when their lives intersect at a party, their shared passions lead them into a romantic relationship. The film takes us through a year of their lives and shows us the disheartening lows of trying to make it in a town that’s deemed them ordinary. But it also shows us the highs of being able to still be an unabashed dreamer; again through the form of song and dance.
After some time, Sebastian gets an opportunity to let go of his dream of owning a jazz club when he finds success as a member of an upcoming band. It's in a reduced role that betrays everything he stands for as a jazz purist. Mia follows suit in making her own make-or-break career decision that is best described as a major gamble, but the results aren’t as rewarding. As the film continues to follow them through their new career paths, their relationship strains under new circumstances when unforgiving reality disrupts their passionate nature.
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have received best actor nominations, and it’s warranted considering the full scope of their roles. I don’t find their performances particularly memorable, but it’s not every day actors are tasked with adding singing and dancing into their performance, so I can respect their Oscar nominations. In truth, special attention should be bestowed onto Writer/Director Damian Chazelle for putting together a film that makes a 1950’s stylized film that somehow works well in 2017. I’m not quite sure how it doesn’t feel gimmicky, but the film works and the beautiful mosaic of blue and purple hues that fill the screen are soothing to take in.
La La Land wears its nostalgia for film’s golden era on its sleeve, and it does so in a way that isn’t supposed to be ironic. The reason why is because at hand is a story of two characters that many people with artistic temperaments can relate to. I'm one of them, and for people like us, sometimes nostalgia tricks us into thinking that life would have been easier if we were born in an earlier time. I’ve come to realize that this is a flawed way of thinking and one that could be harmful once it calcifies into being construed as fact.
Mia and Sebastian spend much of the film wallowing in a state of self-pity because of their belief that the reason why they don’t fit into their environment is not that they were the ones that lost their purity; it was Los Angeles that did. While doing so, they allowed themselves to lose site of the purest emotions there is: love. It’s when the film ends we realize that what every human being seeks the most was right there in front of them the entire time. It’s their dreams, or rather their romantic idealism, that clouded them from realizing this. And this is a lesson we all can learn something from the next time you feel unsatisfied with your stead in life.
I know La La Land isn’t for everyone and seems like pure Oscar bait due to the Academy’s love affair with films about film. In light of recent events around the world, it also may even seem too light compared to other films that deal with subject matter related to what we see in the news. But, there will always be a place for films like this, and I suspect that the emotion it evokes from people is bigger than you think. To me, that is a mark of a great film and one that will always be relevant regardless of what year it is.