Ok. I’ve joined the hype. I love La La Land.
I’m not going to be the first person to blog about this movie, nor will I be the last. But this movie deserves to be talked about. It doesn’t tackle proper issues like I, Daniel Blake, or Moonlight, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less of an awards contender. There’s been debate on whether this film deserves all it’s awards nominations, and people have a lot of opinions over this film. So here are just my thoughts on La La Land.
I should probably highlight I will be talking about spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t seen the film (which you should), then go see the film (Like, GO SEE IT), and come back to this later.
Are we good?
You’ve seen La La Land? Don’t you think it’s wonderful! It’s OK if you don’t, but I think it is!
I saw La La Land a month ago, and oh my god it’s beautiful! I have so many thoughts on this film, so I’m going to section this post so that my thoughts are slightly more coherent.
Warning! I use the words authentic, heart breaking, and beautiful more times that someone should in a lifetime.
The basic story is that an aspiring actress, and a struggling jazz musician meet and fall in love, whilst trying to achieve their dreams.
As an aspiring actress myself, I could obviously relate to the story, and in particular, the character of Mia, played wonderfully by Emma Stone. Mia, after rounds of countless failed auditions, decides to create her own opportunities and begins to write a one woman play. She shows it to Sebastian, rehearses tirelessly on it, and invites casting directors and agents to watch. I write my own scripts for myself, and want to create my own opportunities, because I understand how hard it is to enter the industry and sustain yourself. I admire Mia for taking initiative, and trying to take her career in her own hands.
We also need to talk about the ending. Stunning. For me, it’s one of cinema’s greatest moments. The cinematography, costumes, music, performances, direction, Everything is divine. From the moment Mia realises Sebastian achieved what he wanted, to when he spots Mia in the crowd, to the whole dream sequence, to that final smile. Though it’s heartbreaking, it’s OK. You know the characters are OK, they’ve accepted what’s happened, and are each happy. The only way I can describe the sequence is your heart is being stabbed with a foam sword. You leave feeling happy with what the characters have achieved, rather than grieving the loss of that relationship.
Emma Stone is faultless. Her performance is captivating, humorous, and heartbreaking. Her first audition scene where she’s on the phone is just glorious. The script Mia is reading is dire and cringey, and she doesn’t realise someone is behind her trying to get the attention of the casting director asking if he wants a coffee, or someone is trying to call him, until the person just interrupts the audition. But Mia has tears in her eyes, giving a touching performance from one side of the phone. She puts her all into that audition, and her dejection when she realises she’s just like all the other actresses waiting outside, and she is just another face.
Ryan Gosling is also equally as good. Making Sebastian cynical, yet likeable is no easy feat, yet Ryan’s portrayal is effortless. The scene where Sebastian is jamming with Keith (John Legend who is also brilliant!) and Keith brings in the electro-pop with Sebastian’s bemused reaction is just hilarious. Ryan shows us Sebastian’s passion for jazz through his cynicism and mansplaining (which may be annoying at times), but Sebastian is still a likeable character. Also Ryan actually playing the piano himself is a nice touch of authenticity.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together are sublime. Whether it’s through the I Ran scene, or the surprise meal scene, the chemistry between these two are undeniable. That surprise meal scene, I can’t begin to put into words how well crafted that was. The fact that there is little to no shouting in the argument, but you can feel the frustration. You just have to watch it to understand.
Personally, I feel more for Mia’s ambitions, and want them to be a reality more than Sebastian’s ambitions. For me, the most heartbreaking scene of the film wasn’t the ending (even though my heart is still recovering from the trauma), but Mia’s lack of audience at her show. It’s heartbreaking enough that Sebastian didn’t show up, but when you see Mia’s broken smile as the house light’s go up that you know what is about to come. As the camera turns onto the almost desolate, consisting of Mia’s roommates, and few others. Your heart breaks as all Mia’s hard work has seemingly been for nothing. It’s every actor’s biggest fear come true. The nail in the coffin though is Mia backstage packing up and she hears a few less than positive thoughts from some of her audience, as you just see Mia’s hope crushed. As if your heart isn’t broken enough, Sebastian finally has a change of heart, but is too late. It is clear that there’s no going back from this for Mia. Emma perfectly portrays Mia’s devastation and disappointment so beautifully that you just feel utter heart break for Mia. The line which gets me most is when she tearfully says “I can’t even pay back the theatre,” as Sebastian does his best to console her.
I have the soundtrack on repeat constantly. The music takes me back to watching all those Golden Age Cinema films as a child. La La Land has one of the greatest soundtracks Hollywood has to offer. Bold statement I know. It just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I talk a fair bit about music further on in this post, so I’ll just leave this section for now with something my friend pointed out to me the other day.
Compare Someone in the Crowd with The Muppet Show theme song…
I could talk all day about the costumes! The colours are subtly sublime, with Mia wearing mostly pastels, or black, or that gorgeous deep blue dress for Someone in the Crowd. What I find most impressive though is how Sebastian’s and Mia’s costumes are very 50s and Vintage Golden Age, but they don’t look out of place in the modern world. I would happily steal everything Mia wears!
Yes, there are several problems with La La Land. Does La La Land deserve endless praise? No. I don’t want to dismiss the film’s problems. However, I think that La La Land is suffering a case of being ‘too popular’ for film buffs, who want to sound different from the endless praise of La La Land. Even with the film’s problems, for me, La La Land is still a very enjoyable film.
One criticism I do agree with though is that Sebastian’s goal in the film is to maintain a jazz career and open a jazz bar that stays true to jazz’s roots. You’d think that because jazz’s roots come from black America that Sebastian would be better if he was black? Ryan Gosling does a phenomenal job of playing Sebastian, but, the industry needs to include stories from marginalised groups to reflect society, and Sebastian should have been played by a black actor. I got a quote from The Guardian saying, “It’s impossible to separate jazz from black history, and it’s downright foolish to do so in a film by, for and largely about white people.”
Also another criticism that’s been floating around is that La La Land is not a proper musical. I personally don’t agree with this criticism, but I do understand where critics are coming from. There are no show stopping belters, and whilst the songs are lovely and full of nostalgia, they’re not exactly innovative. On Broadway, there’s musicals such as Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812, who are shaking up the traditional soundtracks you would normally find on the Broadway stages, introducing a new kind of audience to Broadway. La La Land doesn’t try anything new, instead creating a nice throwback. “A musical can be more than just a meet-cute song-and-dance escape; it can also be an opportunity to push the form forward.” Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are no musical theatre extraordinaires (Despite Emma Stone’s turn in Cabaret). They sing and dance well enough for the screen, but are by no means professionals. Whilst some may see this as a criticism, I think this adds to the charm of La La Land. These two characters are trying to achieve their dreams, but aren’t quite there yet, or aren’t quite ready. The slight rust on polished performances add to the authenticity of the characters and the purposefully unauthentic and surreal film. Another factor is that there isn’t actually that many songs. Whilst the score runs practically throughout the whole film, the actual soundtrack is only 45 minutes, and that includes songs without singing. My guess is that the actual singing songs take up just 20 minutes of the film’s 2 hours. That’s just 1/6 of the film dedicated to singing. The narrative was set around the music, rather than driven by it. The Huffington Post also suggests that this problem not just lies with La La Land, but Hollywood itself, saying “What depresses me about modern movie musicals is that they’ve become horribly sanitized to appeal to the largest block of viewers.” I would recommend the full article as it does have valid points.Now I am a huge fan of traditional musicals, and obviously the film is purposely harking back to Golden age cinema, so I disagree with this criticism, but I can see why die hard Broadway fans might be disappointed.
14 Oscar Nominations???
So there’s been a debate over whether La La Land deserves 14 Nominations? I have written a post on who I think will win the Oscars which will be posted on the 25th of February which you have to look forward to.
La La Land’s 14 Nominations are for;
Best Director (Damien Chazelle)
Best Actor (Ryan Gosling)
Best Actress (Emma Stone)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Costume Design
Best Original Score
Best Original Song (“City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”)
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Now, I know as much on sound editing and sound mixing as the next person, So I won’t comment on those as I have no idea what I’m talking about, but I assume it was good! I know 14 nominations sounds like a lot (and it is a lot!) but when you think about the categories individually, then I believe that almost all of it’s nominations are well deserved. The direction was impeccable, as were the performances, and the music, and the costume, and everything else in between! You may have noticed that I have written almost however. There’s one nomination I’m not too sure about, or should I say two. Does La La Land really deserve two best original song nominations? I’m not convinced.
But Beth, You just said La La Land had the best soundtrack of all time? Doesn’t that mean you think it deserves a nomination for every song on the soundtrack?
Yes, I’m not saying that La La Land doesn’t deserve two nominations because I hate any of the songs. I just think, personally, there are songs on the soundtrack more deserving of an Oscar nomination than City of Stars.
BETH?!? Did I hear you right? City of Stars is not Oscar Worthy???
Audition (The Fools Who Dream) is a stunning song, with Emma’s not perfect, yet utterly authentic vocals, and poetic lyrics. That song deserves an Oscar nomination. However, when nominated alongside City Of Stars, for me, those two songs aren’t on the same level. City of Stars is a no less stunning song, but the lyrics aren’t nearly as poetic as Audition (The Fools Who Dream). Ryan and Emma both have good vocals for this film, and have brilliant performances consistently throughout the film, including when singing this song. But when comparing seeing Emma’s raw soul and desperation, to just a couple in love singing about being in love with each other, LA, and their dreams, there’s no competition. City of Stars is a wonderful song, and is genuinely one of my favourites, but it’s been done before in countless movies. I feel like it was nominated because it was La La Land’s ‘title song’. Personally, I would rather have nominated Another Day of Sun, or Somewhere in the crowd, alongside Audition (The Fools Who Dream), (Maybe even Start a Fire at a push). Both have nice show tune beats and good messages which would make nicely for a nomination.
My Overall View
This film is beautifully crafted in every way. I can understand why every one is not a fan of this film, but as an aspiring actress, and big dreamer, this film is my perfect film.
Now when is someone going to cast me in the stage adaptation?
See you soon!