Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
“Here’s to the ones who dream,
Foolish as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that ache,
Here’s to the mess we make.”
In late 2014, I started hearing some buzz about a little film called Whiplash and was immediately interested when it started winning a lot of festival awards so when it finally came to theatres that October I went as soon as I could. Dedicated listeners of the podcast will remember that the film went on my top 10 films of 2014 list at #1. In fact it was the only film I had seen in years where the sides of the screen melted away and I was solely focused into what was happening on screen. So when I saw the first teaser trailer for La La Land the first credit that came up was “from the writer director of Whiplash” I was instantly slamming down twenty dollars screaming “I’m in”.
“Its another day of sun”
La La Land is about an up and coming actress Mia, played by Emma Stone, going to auditions day after day, only being turned down or having horrible experiences while working at a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers back lot. One day while sitting in horrible LA traffic she has a rude encounter with Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, who is a jazz pianist trying to find a job and open his own jazz club. The pair eventually meet and find love in a city of stars.
La La Land is one of those true rare films that take a concept that’s been done before, romantic musical, and elevates it to the stratosphere with a story that’s not only touching, but beautiful in every regard. Most people who know me know that I hate most romance films, in fact I only like 2 romance films to date: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Her. Today I add a third to that rare list, with this film.
Presented in CinemaScope as the film starts expanding into its very wide aspect ratio (2.55:1 for those in the know!) the film takes chances by having extremely long dance and song sequences in close to one shot, taking its time by having scenes play out in wide shots, but that’s not to say its dull. In other sequences the camera is extremely playful by moving around and going up and over, around and side to side, following characters as they move around the scene. There were several moments while watching my jaw started to unhinge and drop at how complex yet simple Chazelle has made it look giving each scene a rhythm and flow that other films simply lack.
The first half of the film is like the dreams and hopes for those trying to achieve the impossible, with the struggles but optimism that young dreamers have; while the second half is the more realist side of achieving a dream. Its compromise, passion and energy that one must have. Personally I had quite a bit of relateability during the whole film making me want to get up right then and there and go out and actually make my dreams come true by any means. While the second half has only maybe one song in its course, it’s the real showstopper from Stone that makes it quite emotional. With the ending being a gut punch with everyone in my audience wiping away some tears. But the beat must go on and life goes on.
There’s something beautiful about the romance between the characters of Mia and Sebastian. They don’t always get along, in fact they really aren’t compatible, but their passion and drive for the things they do really is the through line of what makes them interesting. We want to see them succeed at what they want, but what will it take, and how long?
Upon leaving the auditorium, holding back tears, the usher with the studio asked me how I liked the film. I told her and I quote “please write down I thought it was f**king amazing”. She gladly smiled and wrote it down. I don’t give this rating out very often, In fact I think it was 2012 or 13 when I last gave it, but after thinking about it, I really can’t think of any moment in the film that I didn’t like. I eagerly await when I can view the film again and enjoy my favorite film of the year.