Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has attracted a mass of attention since its release in the UK on 13th January. There was praise for the whole project at the Golden Globes, where the film won no less than seven awards, including Best Motion Picture and Best Original Song. This feel-good and nostalgic musical is being admired across the generations, recommended to you by parents and friends, or even strangers in coffee queues.
La La Land is a production that shamelessly shouts about Hollywood’s continuing greatness and glamour. Critical acclaim has emphasised its originality but also its modern take on the old greats, such as Singin’ in the Rain. For myself, the introductory scene certainly dredged up memories of studying West Side Story in Music at school and set up the movie to have a predictable and glossy storyline.
Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) are what we might call romantics, the characters aspiring to follow their dreams in acting and music. Stone and Gosling demonstrate a remarkable versatility in the film, with Gosling learning to play the piano in just three months and both executing a slick tap-dancing sequence. The backdrops and vibrant scenery complement the fairy-tale romance, while Chazelle’s script achieves just the right balance between light-hearted musical performance and tense romantic drama.
Despite the passionate dreams and idyllic relationship, the story takes a surprisingly modern and realistic turn. While La La Land represents a fantastical parallel to modern-day life, it also inspires a bitter-sweet sense of the cost of achieving your dreams. Hurwitz’s score embodies this through the motif for Mia and Sebastian alongside the vibrant and upbeat jazz and musical score, which is of course accompanied by the appearance of John Legend.
Through the glitz and the glamour, La La Land’s surreal romantic storyline holds a purpose, and whether it is purely superficial or representative of the cost of ambition is open to the interpretation of the viewer. The final sequence acknowledges both the use of ballet in traditional musicals, and also that a flawless journey of the characters would be shallow and incomplete, leaving a question mark on the idealistic musical plot.
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