“Here’s to the ones who dream.”
Emma Stone’s heartfelt song sums up the tone of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. This ode to old Hollywood is a film for dreamers and lovers of great cinema. It is a film that must be seen on the big screen.
La La Land tells the age-old story of ‘boy meets girl’; they fall in love but life’s inevitable hurdles test the longevity of their relationship. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play a jazz pianist and an actress thrown together under their equally difficult circumstances, both trying to adapt to LA’s ever changing cultural scene. A Hollywood match made in heaven, this is Stone and Gosling’s third film together – their natural chemistry and charm adding depth and feeling to their characters.
Unlike most film that fall into the ‘award nominations’ category, this is not a film that will make you think – this film makes you feel. After a year filled with political disappointment and numerous film stars deaths, a film with the strong impact to make you feel is what the world needed. Chazelle reflects, “I think audiences really want stuff that feels real,” and La La Land doesn’t pretend to be anything but real. Whilst the film has the allure of Old Hollywood this only acts as inspiration for the modern musical. Vibrant scenes of LA give the feeling of painted sets and the quirky dance numbers remind you of Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris. The Guardian describes it as a “magical love letter to the golden age of Hollywood.”
All the hype around La La Land leads some critics to question whether this is simply proof that the film industry is self-obsessed? We’ve seen this before with previous award nominated films; Birdman, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and The Artist, all of which pay homage to the great American cinema. After a record tying 14 Academy Awards the internet became flooded with less sparkling reviews, all repeating “that Hollywood had fallen in love — and not just with a movie, but with yet another intoxicating vision of itself,”( Los Angeles Times critic Justin Chang). Some articles were less subtle claiming, “For all its pretense about art and authenticity, ‘La La Land’ is painfully artificial and ends up having very little soul at its core.”
Who can blame them for loving this self- indulgent Hollywood creation – yes, this is a story we’ve seen before and yes, it blatantly celebrates the frivolous LA entertainment scene, but there’s no questioning whether it’s a cinematic master piece. Cinematographer, Linus Sandgren creates a candy-colored fantasy in La La Land, which dances along with the elegant movements of its characters. Sandgren described to Indie Wire how “We move in and spot the characters up, which was also a metaphor for their dreams of being in the spotlight and performing.”
The effortlessness of the songs and dances is what makes the film such a luxury to watch. Opening with a burst of pure joy, the routines transition perfectly, moving the film along. It may look effortless but Emma assured Vogue, “The hardest scene to shoot, and my favorite scene, was the duet number on the hill. We’d rehearsed it for about four months by the time that we shot it, and we had to do it in one take.” Unlike in Disney movies, where you wonder, “How are the other characters not questioning why everyone is suddenly singing?” La La Land feels real, and after leaving the cinema I did get the sudden urge to swing from light posts and tap my way over to the car.
An undoubtedly fashionable film, it goes down with the likes of Café Society and the Great Gatsby as inspiration for future trends. The bold, primary coloured dresses that Stone swishes throughout each scene make us feel compelled to go out and buy anything sunshine yellow immediately. Costume designer Mary Zophres told CNN, “I worked very closely with the production designer and we almost choreographed where we would use color and how.” This all works to create a sort of visual candy -sweet and appealing.
The harmony of old and new, the struggle between preservation and modernism is what makes this film so unique and award worthy. Without being too corny; this film is about finding the dreamer inside you and concludes with the message that not everything can be saved. The film is a masterpiece of escapism and provides a haunting release from everyday life.