It’s shot in cinemascope, it’s big on pizzazz, it’s packed with bold color schemes, the stage lights appear straight out of a dream, it’s big one minute and quiet the next, and every song and tune will replay in your head days after it’s all over. No, you’re not in the 1950s, and no, you’re not in Kansas anymore. This is the present-day reality. So forget about those loud action movies with no respect for the stage, La La Land proves what can and should be done with the long lost art that is the moving picture.
The joyful musical genre has been in the Hollywood cemetery for too long now, but even rarer now is a musical with entirely original music in an entirely original story, which director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) achieves with expert choreography. While he may give Southern California a bit too overly glamorous of a view with no dark edge, he still recaptures the same zest of West Side Story while cranking the spectacle up a notch. It’s always a challenge for any serious director to stage a film where everyone breaks out into song without it oozing Disney Channel cheese, but Damien Chazelle has done it!
Within Chazelle’s cinematic recreation of Southern California, he fastens our seatbelts through the bumpy relationship between two artists over the course of four long seasons, starting at the heat of Christmas. One is a ruby-red aspiring actress who cannot land an audition, and thus must serve coffee under a careless manager to make ends meet. The other is a Fred Astaire-Dooley Wilson mash-up whose fast fingers command jazz on the piano, no matter what his boss wants him to play. After they first meet over road rage at rush hour, these distracted minds find that destiny has forced them together with coincidental run-ins day after day. Everything after that is as pure and classic as dancing under a full moon.
Once we learn about what these two have in common, boy is it the beginning of a beautiful friendship! He wants to revive Jazz as a modern art form, but she cannot stand listening to it, and this subject alone stems all the other conflicts that these two share over the course of a year. It is a pleasure to see the ups and downs of their romance, even if the other people in their lives are treated by the screenwriter as if they don’t even matter.
Yet it’s not the supporting cast who helps us to understand their relationship, but the numbers that project their thoughts onto the moment. On their first formal meeting, she hears his piano playing as lit by a single spotlight, as if she’s glancing into his own little world. On second formal meeting, they tap dance in front of a skyline at twilight. On the first date, they are swept off their feet—literally, to a dance against the stars in a planetarium. On the tenth date, they sing an Oscar-worthy duet. As time goes by, the dream of making it to the top of the world in Paris quickly diminishes. Her tears swell up along with the audiences’; I’ll even admit I choked up as well, and I’m a man.
This wide variety of tone in music is plentiful yet wisely spare, celebrating the history of cinema magic while wishing the best for its future. Yet also like the oldies it writes its love to, there are one too many white players in the production. There are two African Americans cast, but as dancers on the pier who say not a word, just as blacks were stereotyped in that golden age of Hollywood. If this production was less focused on making a musical spectacular and more focused on showing care and attention to today’s media-frenzied audience, then there would have been a better likelihood for this to surpass those repetitive comic book movies at the box office.
I sincerely hope for the day when people return to their senses and offer their money to movies because of their cinematic quality other than their branding. Considering how much music is now taking over our culture, we could use that reminder of how much music raises our self-esteem when times are hard. After seeing what La La Land can do with both old and new styles of filmmaking, I can absolutely assess that I love musicals all over again! Therefore, I encourage everyone to go see this magical delight to raise the spirits for 2017. After all, tomorrow is another day!
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Glieberman, Owen. Film Review: ‘La La Land’. Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 31 Aug 2016. Web. <http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/la-la-land-review-venice-ryan-gosling-emma-stone-1201846576/>.
La La Land. Lionsgate. Web. <http://www.lalaland.movie/>.