In my opinion, yes, this film is absolutely worth the hype and buzz that surrounds it. I mean, it has even inspired me to get up and start writing this blog, hence the domain name!!
But if you are still unsure, here are my top 10 reasons why you should go and see “La La Land”.
Nod to old Hollywood musicals
Imagine Gene Kelly singing from a lampost in “Singin’ in the Rain” or Fred and Ginger dancing cheek to cheek in “Top Hat”. Picture Audrey Hepburn serenading around Paris in “Funny Face” or Shirley MacLaine strutting across the streets with her girl squad in “Sweet Charity”. Director Damien Chazelle touches upon these classic movie moments and blends them into present day Los Angeles effortlessly.
Charming story and protagonists
An aspiring actress meets a dedicated but struggling jazz musician and the two fall in love as they try to achieve their ambitions in the city of dreams. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who previously appeared together in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad”) are simply charming as our two protagonists trying to make ends meet whilst maintaining their relationship together. This story may have been told before in films gone by but the all-singing, all-dancing Gosling and Stone bring a truthful and irresistible quality to this contemporary tale.
The opening number sets the stage brilliantly. Hundreds of cars are queuing in back to back traffic on a typical LA freeway, however, this time the passengers are dancing on their car bonnets and singing about risking it all for their dreams, no matter how painful that might be.“Behind these hills I’m reaching for the heights, and chasing all the lights that shine. And when they let you down, you’ll get up off the ground”. For those who dream of a having their name in lights or have given up everything to make their dream a reality, these lyrics will feel very familiar, and it is where the soul of the movie lies.
Love letter to L.A
Whilst planning my upcoming trip to L.A, many people have told me to avoid the city altogether. L.A has developed a reputation for having tacky tourist spots and generally the city hasn’t done a very good job of nurturing its rich history, particularly in Hollywood. Many iconic studio sites and picture houses have been turned into supermarkets or other real estate. The infamous Brown Derby restaurant is now an apartment block! This film paints a very different picture of the city of angels. Our two leads tap dance through leafy Griffith Park at sunset, attend late night screenings at art deco movie houses, gently sing across the Hermosa Beach pier at dusk and visit the Warner Brothers Studio lot pointing out the very window that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looked out of in Casablanca. This movie is essentially a love letter to Los Angeles and for someone who is going to be visiting the area soon, the release of “La La Land” is well timed.
At the core of “La La Land” is the music composed by Chazelle’s old college roommate, Justin Hurwitz. Inspired by the lush orchestrations from the golden MGM musical era (ranging from the early 30s through to the late 60s), Hurwitz (who also wrote the score for Chazelle’s debut feature film, the gripping “Whiplash”) takes us through upbeat chorus numbers with latin piano riffs, jazz compositions and sweeping ballads. His work on “La La Land” has now been rewarded with two Golden Globe awards for Best Original Score and Song and he is expeced to pick up a few more as the award season continues in the lead up to the Oscars.
A daring idea which paid off
The movie musical has had some what of a renaissance throughout the 2000s with successful titles such as “Moulin Rouge”, “Chicago”, “Hairspray” and more recently, the critically acclaimed “Les Miserables”. But aside from a particularly successful Disney Channel franchise starring a young Zac Efron getting his “head in the game”, these movies have either been musicals with a well known modern day pop score or successful stage plays which have been transitioned to the big screen. Chazelle dared to dream by updating the ‘original’ movie musical genre and making it cool again.
Blurs reality with fantasy
What makes a musical so utterly mesmerising is that it is able to take the characters from the mundane to the spectacular. I was once told by a teacher of mine at theatre school, that a character will break into a song or a dance when they no longer have the simple words to convey their feelings. When our lead characters, Seb and Mia, are dancing through the stars of the Griffith Observatory Planetarium, the audience understand that the couple have fallen in love. It seems here that words are just not enough to express their young love, to the audience’s delight.
In a sold out cinema in Brixton, 300 people remained silent for the 2 hour 8 min running time. When ‘The End’ appeared, there was an applause. When was the last time you visited the cinema on a Saturday afternoon and that happened? Need I say more.
Many people have special memories attached to specific movie moments. I grew up around the classic musicals and strongly believe that they have shaped me into the person I am today. My nan and grandad lived with my parents, my two older brothers and I and would frequently take on the babysitting role. They introduced me to the classic MGM musicals such as “An American in Paris”, “The Band Wagon”, the Esther Williams aqua musicals and of course the incomparable “Singin’ in the Rain”. I would request the latter every time I was with them for the night, (well that and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) and like millions of others, it remains one of my favourite films of all time. My grandad would shout “Roll em!” and my nan would always question “I’m sure that isn’t Debbie Reynolds’ actual singing voice” (she was right, of course). Watching “La La Land” brought these memories flooding back and I believe it will now be remembered as a classic for the next generation.
A mesmerising movie like this has to have a grand finale and in my opinion “La La Land” delivers one of the greatest film endings in modern times. The epilogue pays homage to the great musical ballet, “Broadway Melody” in “Singin’ in the Rain” and the unforgettable bar scene in “The Band Wagon”, which also inspired Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”. From the bright colours to the costumes, even to the clever use of widescreen Cinemascope, you can see from where Chazelle drew his inspiration. In the final scene, we are able to join Seb and Mia on a carousel journey of their life together in the most glorious way. Unfortunately, at some point, all dreamers have to wake up and face reality, and this is what draws this film to a close, truthfully and beautifully, keeping it connected with it’s modern day audience.
“La La Land” has captured the imagination of cinema audiences and I predict it will become a contemporary classic in it’s own right, just like the movies which have inspired it.