I can't remember the last time that I went to the movies to see a blockbuster hit, and then wasn't able to get the film out of my head for days. By now, we all know of the hype that surrounds La La Land and I am here to tell you that it is all trustworthy fanfare. With its original songs, the intricate score, color scheme, cinematography and beautiful performances - it is precisely art. Please forgive me if this article lacks some flow, as I have the film's soundtrack playing at this exact moment.
As I kid who grew up watching Singin' In The Rain over and over until the poor DVD copy was worn out and scratched, I am grateful that so many years later I can imagine myself doing the same exact thing with this movie. No, the dancing of Stone and Gosling isn't up to par with the likes of Kelly and Reynolds, or Astaire and Rogers, yet the charm and class is remarkably present. The costar chemistry that they emulate together is only possible because of those dance numbers and duets. Moreover, it is important to note that those sequences were filmed with no edits. This means that Gosling and Stone danced and sung (with a track of course, nonetheless still impressive), the entirety of "A Lovely Night" in one shot - that's practically a 5 minute live performance.
And, no, this is no Blue Valentine for Gosling, but he learned how to play the piano so he could also perform the score sequences with no edits as well. As for "Another Day Of Sun," the musical's opening number, the production team and director shut down a freeway in Los Angeles just to have their ensemble dancing on top of cars in the burning sun and extreme heat - that's dedication.
For anyone who has every gotten a door slammed in their face, figuratively or literally, Stone's audition sequences strike a relatable chord. They're humorous, frustrating, and all too real. Then comes her Oscar-worthy performance of "The Fools Who Dream," and everything stops. Perhaps, on Broadway, when you are sitting in the last row of the theatre, you would want to hear a powerful vocal. There's absolutely no need for that in this scene (though she sounded lovely), it is purely an acting masterclass and a heartbreaking moment that resonates with anyone, not only aspiring artists. Bravo, Emma Stone.
Furthermore, the couple manages to be fantastically romantic and in love while keeping the movie chaste and fairytale-worthy. I'm glad that I won't have to wait for my kids to be "old enough" to see this film. Don't get me wrong, I love an episode of Shameless as much as the next guy, but sometimes it's refreshing to see two characters tentatively holding hands in the movie theater and a playful buildup to their first kiss - another ode to old Hollywood.
Besides all the wonder of the production and performances, there is something to be said for the storyline itself. Yes, maybe we've heard this story before (especially theatre kids), something along the lines of The Last Five Years. It is the story of two people who fall for each other in the midst of chasing their challenging career goals, which is inevitably dangerous. But, the script never allows itself to be that simple or transparent. As the movie rolls merrily along (have a Sondheim pun), you start to realize the little gems of their relationship and the question of "fate." Mia and Sebastian were absolute keys to each other's success - for his jazz club, and her movie role. Even when they face their time apart in the film, they are brought back together by events that change their futures drastically. Think about it: Sebastian is the one to receive the phone call about Mia's audition, and Mia is the one to tell him that he isn't doing what he is truly passionate about with Keith (I could have just said John Legend) and his band. Perhaps the most powerful thing that I noticed was that they mutually decide to go their separate ways - nothing dramatic or extravagant. This is what makes the ending sequence all the more heartbreaking - all those years ago, they agreed on it ending, but that unintended reunion still ignites a painful flame. I could ramble on about the ending sequence for many years, so I will just applaud Gosling and Stone for what they manage to convey to each other with delicate glances.
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It makes you think though, doesn't it? And, when is the last time a Hollywood blockbuster about Hollywood itself made you have a second thought about the people you meet in your life and the reason that they cross your path? If La La Land wanted a "happy ending" (which many classic musicals traditionally have), they could have easily turned the unexpected reunion into a very different cinematic scene. However, Chazelle gifts you with a bittersweet epilogue to conclude the film. It's bound to leave any audience member discreetly reaching for the tissues stuffed into the bottom of their bag or in their back pocket.
And, it's sad, in our opinion - because they didn't end up together. But, the more that I think about this film, the more I realize that it was a story about allowing yourself to dream, and although apart, they both have their dreams in the end. Sometimes love stories have a very specific purpose, despite their uncontrollable destination.
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