La La Land, 2016


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.

A love song to LA and to old Hollywood (musicals), La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, transcends, reinvents the genre it so clearly adores. It’s familiar but it’s not a copy, not trying to be. It’s romantic and nostalgic, just like its main characters Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Magic, pure and simple.

The movie centres on Mia and Sebastian, an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist both living in Los Angeles. The film tracks their story as they meet, fall in love and follow their dreams.

I haven’t had a movie hit me this hard in a long time. I wrote this, nearly an hour after I left the cinema, and I still wanted to cry (did cry) from the sheer beauty and joy (and more than a little melancholy) of what I had just experienced. I didn’t want to step out of this film, come back to reality.

It was more than those feelings, though – it was also that I love musicals so much. They mean so much to me. And to see a movie that is basically an extended love song to them, to that classic period of (Hollywood) musicals, that is also a really beautiful, moving film on its own was overwhelming.

(In the car, on the way home, I am asked what’s wrong? And I say, through my blubbering, ‘I just liked the movie so much.’ (And I temper my words, I loved it, not liked it, because emotions embarrass me, but my tears tell another story).)

The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is fantastic, they play off each other beautifully. The music, even in the ‘worst’ songs conveyed exactly what it needed to. It’s also one of the most magically beautiful movies my eyes have feasted on in some time. The costumes are perfect and it is photographed exquisitely. The observatory scene was whimsical and moving. The whole ending sequence took my breath away. I nearly couldn’t contain myself through it. A little sob escaped me.

Is this what audiences felt like in the 40s and 50s seeing the stars dance across the screen in technicolor? Those glorious sets and costumes and colours, more real, more beautiful, than reality, and all the better for it. To be whisked away to this magical place left me breathless. It’s not that other new movies don’t bring me joy or awe me but this was a whole other experience. I almost can’t articulate what it was. The feeling as I was writing this, the feeling I had watching the film. It filled me so that words could not capture it. Maybe music could. Maybe jazz could.

Also, I am more than ready for a musical renaissance. Surely the time for their resurrection has come! Not this dribbling of releases we get, but a full flood. Please.

La La Land opens in cinemas around Australia on Boxing Day.

Originally posted on letterboxd.

Further reading:

‘La La Land’ Makes Musicals Matter Again at The New York Times


One thought on “La La Land, 2016

  1. Pingback: December 2016 Roundup | The Sofa Cinephile

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