I am watching La La Land because I simply can’t stop myself. This movie is just perfection. It’s like the writer created something that was a magical blend of old movie splendor and modern fun. I watched musicals whenever I had a chance when I was a kid and spent hours researching my favourite stars. I knew more about dancers, singers and producers than I did about my schoolwork – why didn’t they want to know about Fred Astaire’s relationship with his choreographer and doppleganger Hermes Pan on any test I wrote? I just don’t know what was wrong with my teachers…
Directed and written by Damien Chazelle (he also wrote and directed the multiple award-winning movie Whiplash from 2014), with outstanding lyrics by the Broadway darlings Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, La La Land features a romance that will capture your heart. It begins with a marvelous 150-person dance routine that takes place during a traffic jam on a freeway in Los Angeles and their voices swell to music that includes notes made by car horns. It’s so clever and the footwork, camera angles, and vibrant costumes work together to make that first number – “Another Day of Sun”- so compelling that I said, as we walked out of the theatre, that there would be no dancing on top of our car. It’s that kind of movie – you feel swept away by the music and the emotion. Almost as if you might dance on top of your Honda here in Waterloo in the theatre parking lot.
Emma Stone plays the part of an aspiring actress, named Mia, working as a barista on the Warner Brothers backlot when she meets musician Ryan Gosling, playing the part of Sebastian, who is trying to pull together enough cash to open a very specific kind of jazz bar. It’s boy-meets-girl-with-a-misunderstanding-thrown-in so that their eventual spark means even more. Their next meeting is just the last word in meet cutes because it happens while poor Mia is in the middle of a horrible conversation with a man at a party and Sebastian is playing in an ’80s cover band. They are a very well-turned-out cover band (maybe bands in L.A. always look that good?) and play songs that were splendid at that time and they certainly worked for Mia in 2016. Their romance is charming and the chemistry between the two lead actors is a perfect match for all of the singing and dancing required for this movie, although I have never been sure when singing and dancing might not be required.
Awards and love have poured down on everyone involved with this film and I agree that the acclaim is well deserved. I have always believed the idea that singing a song makes any activity more fun – Mary Poppins told us this with her spoonful of sugar theory and I never disagree with Mary Poppins. I think that deciding whether or not La La Land ushers in a new generation of movie musicals deserves some time in your DVD player. We also have the soundtrack here on the shelves at WPL and it really is going to make your life so much better – you could listen to it and relive your favourite scenes. It will make everyday chores and driving around town go by much faster because you will be singing while you do it. Just remember that there can be no dancing on the top of cars.