La La Land
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like La La Land. Despite gathering much five star praise for what seems like forever now, I really wasn’t getting that feeling from the trailer which just came across as silly to me. So I went into the movie sceptical, and in a slightly tired and grumpy mood, hoping for the best. I’m happy to say though that while not the absolute masterpiece that so many critics seem to be calling it, it’s still a beautiful film which is well worth a watch.
Kicking off with a truly memorable traffic jam, camera weaving among the stationary vehicles while drivers leap out and onto their cars in an increasingly elaborate song and dance number, the movie gets off to a wonderful start. Immediately invoking those feelings of old fashioned Hollywood musicals that all the critics keep referring to. Our two leads are behind one another in the jam, flipping each other the bird in a bit of minor road rage before driving off to go about their separate lives. We start by following Emma Stones character Mia, barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros lot. She’s also an aspiring actress and playwright, frequently leaving work early to attend an audition. She goes home where her and her three room mates get ready for a party, kicking off another great song and dance number and really setting the bar high for the rest of the movie. On her way home from the party she hears a lonely piano playing inside the club she’s passing so she heads inside and spots Ryan Goslings character Seb playing the piano. She’s mesmerised. When he gets up, talks to the club owner (J K Simmons) and goes to leave, Mia tries to compliment him, but he just brushes past her. We then go back to the traffic jam and follow Seb on his day leading up to this meeting point. Like Mia, he also has big dreams. A jazz pianist, aspiring to own his own club someday, frustrated at being forced to stick to certain set lists when playing at clubs in order to make ends meet. We discover that the conversation with the club owner before brushing past Mia involved him being fired for deviating from the set list of Christmas tunes and playing his own weird jazz stuff instead.
Soon after, the pair meet again at a party. Seb is part of a band playing 80s music when Mia spots him. She deliberately requests a song she knows he’ll hate to play in order to get him back for the earlier brush off but when they strike up a conversation later in the party they start to become a bit more friendly. What follows is the beginnings of a beautiful romance. And both of our leads are on top form, fully deserving of any awards they might receive for this movie. Aside from being sickeningly cool, charming and funny, Gosling is also a pretty decent singer/dancer and an amazing piano player too! Emma Stone matches Gosling with the singing and dancing, and is absolutely beautiful in this movie. As romance begins to blossom, emotions explode into joyful production set pieces, colourful and mesmerising, from tap numbers to piano solos to dancing across the cosmos!
Once our pair become a couple, relationship problems being to occur. Seb gets a well paid job playing piano for a big band as they go on tour while Mia is preparing to put on her own one woman show. They struggle with trying to follow their dreams while sticking together and at the same time the joyful song and dance numbers understandably take a back seat. It becomes a fairly watchable relationship story about a couple of likeable characters but after all the catchy tunes and vibrant performances we’ve had up until then, this just seemed like a big dip in the movie and seemed to drag for far too long. Thankfully though, the movie saves the best til last. A beautiful, colourful, heartbreaking story told over a succession of scenes. It was incredible and for me it lifted this movie from an average three stars up to a strong four. I saw the movie last night and that ending just really stuck with me ever since. I also can’t get some of the tunes out of my head either!
My watch-list of movies and TV shows continues to grow, while my spare time continues to shrink. Occasionally though, I’ll manage to tick one off the list, and then try to come up with some words about it that make me sound as though I know what I’m talking about. “Once he has discovered something, he wants to be off onto the next thing, rather than spending time and elaborating” – snippet from my primary school report, confirming that I am, and always have been, easily distracted.