La La Land: Listen Up, by Rudie Obias
Starting off with an absurdly big and impressive musical number — which involves a traffic jam, vivid colors, and an infectious showtune — La La Land sings as one of the best movies of the year, though it doesn’t quite hit all of its marks as a complete crowd pleaser. The opening is not just a statement on the film’s over-the-top tone, but as a call to the audience to shake off the dullness of sitting in a stationary spot for a long period of time waiting for something to happen, smile, and enjoy the ride. La La Land is a blast!
The musical follows Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), two star-crossed lovers who have big dreams of Hollywood in their eyes. Sebastian is a long suffering jazz pianist who wants nothing more than people to appreciate jazz as much as he does and to open a nightclub as a celebration for his favorite music, while Mia is a struggling actor who works as a barista until she hits stardom. While La La Land falls into certain traps of romantic comedies and musicals, it subverts some of those elements with a good dose of cynicism.
As the film progresses, it stops being a musical at a point. There are no big musical numbers and the colors become more muted. Once Sebastian and Mia are past the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship, things become more real. While the start of their love affair was the driving force of following their dreams, it also became a barrier of compromise and sacrifice.
Sebastian has very little money to open a nightclub, so he takes a job as a pianist in his friend/rival Keith’s (John Legend) jazz pop band. Although this job allows him to make money, it also takes him away from Mia, as he’s too busy recording and touring to invest in their relationship. She also starts to detach when her dreams of becoming a movie star starts to become a reality after writing and directing a self-funded one-woman play. Sebastian and Mia’s relationship doesn’t seem so sunny when they’re both on the verge of success. They must choose to stay together or fulfill their potential as dreamers. While this might turn off romantics, it’s the bittersweet realism of having an artist’s temperament.
Director Damien Chazelle balances the ideals of love at first sight with the determination of perfection. In that way, it’s similar to his last film, Whiplash, only bigger and more colorful with a (somewhat) romantic eye to relationships, cinema, and the City of Angels. Chazelle does a very confident job with his third film without an ounce of doubt in where to place and move a camera and without being timid with a larger scale motion picture.
The movie is jam-packed with charm from its leads, music, and cinematic moments, which makes it great for cinephiles who might be reminded of movies from Billy Wilder, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, and Paul Thomas Anderson (namely Punch Drunk-Love in color scheme and tone). But general audiences will simply love the story and musical numbers. La La Land is a lovely, pleasing, and showstopping movie that should be watched on the biggest screen, loudest sound, and brightest colors as possible. There’s no better way to watch a fantastic movie like this!