La La Land is the perfect of example of style over substance, but sometimes, style has a way of breathing life into tired, old stories.
Damien Chazelle, who also directed the acclaimed Whiplash, does just that with this musical about a young couple (played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) trying to make it in the cesspool that is Los Angeles, though the movie makes that cesspool look as nice as it can.
The plot isn’t worth describing in detail. Gosling’s character is a jazz musician who wants his own jazz club, while Emma Stone is a struggling actress constantly getting rejected, a brutal reality the film doesn’t shy away from.
The couple meet by accident several times, initially hating each other, before they start to bond over their hardships and love of the arts. This relationship, however, is then tested as they must decide between being famous and being together.
Yeah, I’d rather be famous. There are plenty of fish in the sea, but there can only be one guy to play Wolverine. And the movie, surprisingly, agrees with me.
There was a time when Hollywood used to pump out musicals by the dozens, such as classics like Singin’ in the Rain and My Fair Lady. Now they only exist as a novelty or the occasional Oscar bait.
Too be fair, La La Land is definitely Oscar bait.
The Academy Awards love movies about themselves because they can relate to them better. Movies like The Artist and Birdman sweep away the competition whenever they come out of the woodwork.
Of course, it also helps those movies are good, and La La Land is good too.
The movie has vibrant scenery, original music, well-choreographed dance numbers, a sweet sense of humour and two gorgeous leads who can do a jig. Gosling has a bit of trouble singing, but he only has to do it for two scenes, with Stone doing a majority of the rest.
It is hard to describe this movie or the charm that possesses the viewer. Most of it lies in the craft and the dialogue that goes out of its way too avoid being cliche.
The lack of musicals in modern Hollywood might also help, but La La Land never feels like a rip-off of something better. Rather, it manages to recapture the magic of old Hollywood musicals without being derivative.
Take the opening scene where everyone on a congested overpass gets out of there car and starts dancing. This epic break from reality is typical of classic musicals. La La Land isn’t afraid to become abstract in order to show what the characters are thinking and feeling.
Chazelle has a fixation on jazz and the concept of fame. Whiplash incorporated both these elements and even managed to say something rather profound.
La La Land is a bit more simple in its storytelling, except for how honest it is about the road to fame, about the struggles and sacrifices celebrities have to go through in order to make it. That begs the question of what Chazelle had to go through to reach where he was.
Well, at least he doesn’t have to struggle anymore.