La La Land
Aggressively imperfect, La La Land is glowingly beautiful
Everyone loves musicals. But when’s the last time you saw an original musical on the screen? That’s what I thought. You can’t think of one. Until now. La La Land doesn’t ignore the nostalgia the big musical number inherently brings with it. It embraces it. In it’s characters, in it’s screenplay, in it’s artform.
While it’s blatantly nodding to the movie musicals of the 50s and 60s, La La Land is pure cinema in it’s medium, screenplay, performances. while it’s only a matter of time before someone attempts to bring the scappy story of Mia and Sebastian to the stage, it won’t have the same heart as this original film. You need the closeups, the cinematic chemistry, the nostalgia to make La La Land what it is.
While it’s built on nostalgia, La La Land could never stand up against classic movie musicals when it comes to the dancing, singing, and musical numbers. spectacular Ryan Gosling, however handsome, is nothing like Fred Astaire. And Emma Stone is no Debbie Reynolds. While Gosling’s piano playing is admirable, the dancing is clunky and the singing is just ok, the dialogue is poorly dubbed during walk-and-talks. But that’s what makes it charming. It’s imperfect. It’s aggressively imperfect. The entire film is about two people who aren’t anything special. They have a dream and they’re waiting for it to come true. It celebrates the amateur in all of us: What happens when an ordinary person enters a fantasy world of art, music, and movies?
And unlike those classic musicals we all love, the fantasy in La La Land isn’t in the love story. Sure, the connection between Mia and Seb is charming and supportive and is something many people dream of having. But there are flaws in their chemistry and La La Land acknowledges that it’s ok for these 2 people who may not work in the end. Because the fantasy is in their dreams, in Seb’s dream to open a jazz club and Mia’s dream to be in the movies. As we see in the epilogue sequence at the end of the film, if they had stayed together, neither of them would have been successful in their own eyes. The film doesn’t shy from letting it’s protagonists be a little selfish. Because while they’re supportive of each other and will probably always love each other, their dreams took them in different directions.
So while La La Land clearly calls back to the genre-making musical movies in both story and medium, it also breaks the mold and acknowledges that you don’t have to be Fred Astaire to have your dreams come true.