La La Land: A Reemergence of Musical Film
March 17, 2017
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“La La Land”, a parade of laughter, happiness, and heartbreak, had a successful run in theaters for the past few months, and for good reason. The film thoughtfully captures the emotional roller-coaster that is trying to find your place in Hollywood. Director Damien Chazelle salutes old Hollywood musicals whilst featuring a contemporary flare of dance and song, inspiring the artistic aura of audiences.
Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, “La La Land” is a modern day musical that tells the story of two aspiring stars. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, this musical masterpiece focuses on the unlikely love story of a passionate jazz musician, Sebastian, played by Gosling, and a struggling actress, Mia, played by Stone. Director Damien Chazelle, known for his popular film “Whiplash”, has featured music as a central part in his past films, yet none to the extent of the musical ingenuity of “La La Land”.
The film is largely critical of Los Angeles, and the Hollywood formula to fame. Chazelle features scenes where Mia is not given any attention in the audition room and the directors are simply glazing over their phones neglecting her presence and efforts in auditioning.
Similarly, Gosling’s character Sebastian is prevented from playing the music which he truly loves and can only get gigs playing Christmas jingles in restaurants.
The pace of the film furthermore criticizes the inflated culture of “The City of Stars” as Mia and Sebastian’s relationship progresses quickly and is eventually overshadowed by their hopes for stardom.
Through the two lead characters, the movie sends a resounding message of inspiration and motivation to those who are afraid of following their dreams. Despite how many times Sebastian is fired from playing at restaurants or how many times Mia fails to get a call-back for an audition, the two love-birds remain overly passionate and hopeful about their careers. In fact, the song which Mia sings at her audition “Audition(The Fools Who Dream)” is an ode to those who leapt and took risks to fulfill their dreams foolish as they may seem.
When hearing the word “musical”, many people imagine a cringey story in which characters break-out into song and dance without any real purpose. However, this film completely redefines the cliche definition of musicals as each scene smoothly transitions into a musical number. Chazelle’s choice of actors whom are not exactly known for their musicality is a further effort to make the performances look and sound as raw as ever. In fact, the sit-down at the piano with Gosling and Stone as they sing “City of Stars” encapsulates all the natural vocal mistakes made by the actors, apparent from their giggling in the scene.
Despite its title, “La La Land”, Chazelle heavily addresses the compromise that comes with stardom. Through an abrupt change in scenes, Chazelle leaves the audience at a loss for words.
The conclusion of the film was very much bitter-sweet not only because of the progression of the story, but because the experience whilst watching had been so pleasant and beautiful. There is a desire for more of the film, and the fact that the moving melodies are ingrained in both the audience’s heart and mind, is incentive to see the film once again.
“This is the dream, it’s conflict, compromise and it’s very exciting”, a line delivered by Gosling in the jazz-club scene, beautifully captures the essence of the film. It has been a very long time since a musical has made such an impact on Hollywood as La La Land did and with Chazelle on the rise, I can only imagine how many more euphonious pieces of art he has to offer the world of entertainment.