"La La Land" Review
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"La La Land" Review

The battle between fantasy and reality (Warning: spoilers ahead)

"La La Land" Review
Summit Entertainment

At a time when hit musical films are few and far between, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is a triumph.

This is not to say that Hollywood has been entirely starved from musical films in recent years – there’s the Pitch Perfect franchise (2012, 2015), Les Misérables (2012), Begin Again (2013), Into the Woods (2014), Straight Outta Compton (2015) – however, none of these accomplished what La La Land did: a perfect balance between fantasy and reality. From the opening sequence set to the song “Another Say of Sun,” which takes place on a freeway in L.A. traffic, to the final sequence set to the song “Epilogue,” which illustrates what could-have-been for lovers Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), the movie generates a whimsical atmosphere steeped in the characters’ (oftentimes harsh) realities.

On the more whimsical end, the art direction is stunning, highlighting upbeat scenes with vibrant reds and yellows and those more serious with deep purples and blues. The cinematography is jaw dropping – unsurprising, of course, in the hands of Linus Sandgren, who was also cinematographer on award-winning films like American Hustle (2013) and Joy (2015). The soundtrack is catchy and familiar, generally carried by Stone’s and Gosling’s somewhat meek voices, which are easily forgivable given the film’s realistic roots.

At its core, La La Land is the clichéd story about two young artists who find each other as they’re struggling to “make it” in Hollywood, Mia as an actress and Sebastian as a jazz pianist – a relatable story if not overdone. However, it’s the performances of Stone and Gosling that keep it from sinking into banality. Despite the stereotypical, romanticized moments that leave you a bit skeptical, it’s Stone and Gosling’s masterful performances and chemistry that will keep you grounded (even when the two are literally flying across the screen). Chazelle’s comical jabs at today’s culture play into this authenticity as well, noting the excess amount of Toyota Priuses in L.A. or Mia’s awful job at a posh coffee shop.

This balance of realism and fantasy is ultimately what drives the narrative, nudging characters Mia and Sebastian through professional and emotional peaks and valleys as they try and fail in achieving their unattainable dreams as well as what eventually becomes their unattainable relationship. However, Chazelle continues to bring these characters together, as if controlled by an external force, embodying their earlier witty exchange:

“It’s pretty strange that we keep running into each other,” Mia says.

“Maybe it means something,” Sebastian replies.

“I doubt it.”

However, despite the hopeless romantic inside of me that rooted for these two, perhaps the best and most shocking element of this film was its ending.

After spending two enchanting hours entrenched in Chazelle’s La La Land, he jolts his audience out of the final and fundamental fantasy to pursue reality. Mia and Sebastian do not wind up together. In chasing and achieving their dreams – his a jazz club and hers a successful acting career – they are unable to be together. However, the final moment between them, which is simply a silent look of knowing across Sebastian’s club, provides a sense of hope for the two ex-lovers.

Chazelle, then, leaves it up to his audience to decide which they want to believe in more: the fantasy or the reality.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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