There has been a lot of hype around the release of this film and its popularity certainly shows in local theatres. Last week when I went to see it, I was told to pre-order my tickets online because the show times were selling out so fast that you were almost guaranteed to not get a ticket if you came the night of – or at least, you wouldn’t get good seats.
After seeing the film though, I understand completely why it’s been so popular.
Going into the film, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going to be about. I knew it was a musical of course, and a love story between two struggling artists in L.A, but beyond that I had no idea what sort of story would unfold. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how things played out. La La Land is unlike any musical I’ve ever seen before. It wasn’t cheesy or musically overdone, it wasn’t melodramatic or boring – it was incredibly genuine and unique, and whimsical to the point of being more of a romance more than anything else – but not just a romance between the two protagonists, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). La La Land also explores the romance between people and their dreams and passions, becoming a star, making it big in L.A., romanticizing fame and fortune, and deciding in the end whether or not it’s all worth it, or if it’s even what you really want.
As a musical film, one might say that some of the elements from La La Land are nothing new, and some are even clichés – struggling actress meets struggling musician, romance, fame and fortune factor in somehow, dancing, music, singing – however, La La Land manages to take those familiar tropes and present them in fresh ways we’ve never seen before. I loved the way in which the visual medium of film was used to tell the story. It was non-linear in parts, which always makes things interesting, and there was a lot to be said during the scenes that had no dialogue; you’re figuring out for yourself what’s happening visually, and it made for a very engaging movie. Sometimes musicals can have the effect of being inaccessible to the viewer, a little too ‘out there’ and theatrical, but La La Land is so engaging in its execution because it’s first and foremost a story and the musical aspect comes second and, thus, does not overshadow the film.
The music itself was fantastic – jazzy undertones, fast paced, engaging, lovely chord progressions and melodies that just stay with you days after- my personal favourites were Another Day of Sun and City of Stars. The writing was fantastic, great dialogue between Gosling and Stone – comedic at times, serious at others. Both Gosling and Stone are very natural on screen together and the film really allowed for their characters to develop by the end of it. Of course, Gosling and Stone’s singing isn’t mind blowing, but they did a very decent job considering neither of them are musical performers or dancers (although I heard form the Graham Norton Show that Gosling did do some dancing when he was a kid).
As a piece of art, the film itself truly was an accomplishment of phenomenal proportions. The set design and story was whimsical at times and pushed the bounds of reality, as many musicals do, but without coming off as hokey or random.The vibe was consistent and dynamic – honestly it was the most engaging experience I’ve had in a movie theatre in a long time. The whole audience was riveted by what was happening, laughing at the comedic parts, dead silent during the arguments, and the guy next to me was even humming at one point.
Even if you don’t like musicals I would recommend seeing La La Land because of its unconventional take on musicals and the fantastic storyline – which actually had me emotionally engaged, something that’s been lacking in movies for me personally, lately. I think the message of the film is also something that anyone can relate to, whether or not it has anything to do with being an actress or musician, and that is to never give up on your dreams, or yourself.