Who doesn’t like watching beautiful people singing and dancing beautifully? Not me. And if you’re like me, please, please, pretty please give La La Land a go.
It will probably be the most magical viewing experience you’ll ever have. For this generation of filmmaking, I mean. Everything is right ON POINT. Music, costume, big production numbers, the 1950s glamour, all that with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling playing a couple? Oh my heart.
I know it appears on the poster that the story might take place in the 1950s, but it actually tells a very present and realistic story. Emma stone plays Mia, an aspiring actress who spent six years auditioning for every role possible in Los Angeles, while working at a cafe in Warner Brother studio complex. Ryan Gosling on the other hand, portrays Sebastian, a mildly depressed but obviously talented Jazz pianist who devoted all the passion to real Jazz music. He dreamed of opening his own Jazz club but in reality, he could only play piano in a restaurant where the manager wanted nothing but Jingle Bells.
It is your classic love story between two struggling artists, or dreamers, as director Damien Chazelle would like to call them, balancing their commitment to passion and pressure from the real world to keep their dreams alive.
The true beauty of La La Land is that it puts everything that could have been corny together, and they complement each other so well that the final product has all of us echoing with the (probably over) romanticised world it portrays. I’m sure we all know by this point, the creative thoughts that went into La La Land has been validated by critics, receiving “raving” acclaim since its initial premiere at various film festivals. Let alone the sweeping win at the Golden Globes this year. All I want to say is, it’s good.
Right from the beginning, the film opens with an enormous outdoor musical number on a highway. It was hot, everyone was stuck in heavy traffic. One nice young lady started humming in her car. All of sudden, she opened the door, jumped out and started singing and dancing to her dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood. One by one, people stuck in the traffic cheerfully joined her, and the enthusiasm quickly spread all around. What had been excruciating traffic, under hot sun, suddenly turned into enchanting self-expression by a bunch of dream chasers. The musical number finished on a big solid bang, then there pops the title “La La Land”, in a font and colour that screams old-school Hollywood studio movie. Singing in the Rain! style.
La La Land is essentially an uplifting film, an homage to 1950s musicals when original songs were still trendy to put into a film. It has disappeared for a while; musicals with songs no one ever heard of are risky projects for studios to greenlight. So we’ve had Broadway adaptations like Chicago and Mama Mia!, but nothing truly original for our time like when Top Hat came out, with Fred Astaire singing and tying up his white tie.
The songs are placed in the film not just to please us viewers, but also to serve storytelling purpose. Those critical turning points for Mia and Sebastian’s relationship are sung to audiences, topped by actors’ subtle and intimate performance. The moment Emma Stone belting out “Audition” (a song that is also featured in one of the trailers) in all desperation, holding onto the last chance to reach her dream was so emotionally compelling, that I could sense the roomful of audiences were weeping and sniffing together. That, my friends, is the long-lost art of cinema.
It is the Oscar season, and soon all these theatres are going to be swamped by heavy, deep, possibly to many, boring academy films. If you’re merely looking to hit the cinema for some good ol’ entertainment, go for La La Land, let it dazzle you. Oh and don’t forget to bring some tissues, you’ll need it, big time.