Why “La La Land” is an Instant Classic
My least favorite genre in cinema as a whole are musicals. Very few can exude the right amout of charm, wit and emotion that is both catchy and engrossing. A few exceptions that come to mind are Disney’s The Lion King, Greece and most recently, The Muppets. Another thing I hate about modern cinema is the internet driven “hype train” that comes around several times every Oscar season. With accusations such as “this is the best film of the year” from a resounding number of credible industry experts is a scary thing to face. Your expectations are through the roof, you are ready for something incredible, but hoping it isn’t a situation like Boyhood, in which you just feel cheated out of the whole experience. Well, color me wrong, because Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is that anomaly of “living up to the hype.”
From the opening tracking number to the films unbelievably gut-punch ending, La La Land had me smiling ear to ear throughout its runtime. La La Land is an homage to the golden age of cinema, taking place in present day with new LA Dreamers front and center. We follow jazz artist, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), as he struggles with side gigs, ranging from playing Christmas music at a local restaurant, to being the keyboardist in an awful cover band. Sebastian keeps running into an aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone), who is a barista in the Warner Brothers Studios lot.
Mia is denied countless times as her auditioning for various roles becomes tiring on her emotionally. After a few coincidental occurrences coming into contact with Sebastian, the two eventually form a relationship together. Two people from different parts of the country are both passionate about what they want to achieve in life. But does their passion take a front seat to the incredible chemistry and love they have for one another?
La La Land is the cliché definition of “magic at the movies.” This is a modern day fairy tale in every sense of the word. When you see the opening tracking shot, beautifully choreographed and shot with immense talent, you are immersed in this world Damien Chazelle set for the audience. The opening number is big, extravagant and even has a bit of tongue and cheek humor as it takes place in gridlock LA traffic. It’s without question the most “musical” moment of La La Land.
I say this because when you hear the word “musical”, you automatically expect everything to be a, for lack of a better term, a big song, and dance. This isn’t one of those musicals in which a character will have 3 or 4 lines of dialogue followed up by music number after music number. That is not the case with Chazelle’s love letter to dreamers. The blend of singing, dancing, and traditional storytelling is expertly blended seamlessly. When the musical numbers do happen, they come off as more of a pleasant surprise than “oh god ANOTHER song?” Speaking of, the music is just beautiful, from the high energy of “Another Day of Sun,” to the romantic “A Lovely Night,” to the final number of the film which will leave you breathless.
The chemistry between Gosling and Stone is magnetic. The two instantly have a great report with one another, even if they don’t always see eye to eye. The first real scene the two share together is at a house party in Hollywood. Mia is attempting to mingle with anyone formidable she can make contact with, while Sebastian is playing the keys in a cheesy 80s cover act. In probably one of the funniest scenes in the film, Mia requests the band to play “I Ran,” and the look on Gosling’s face to this request is nothing short of hysterical.
From there the pairs relationship blossoms in a fairy tale like fashion. They dance over a majestic view of LA, move in together and share each other’s passion with one another. The story is told through seasons with Winter being the first. I love that it used this element to show how long Mia and Sebastian have been together, it’s both smart and simple.
Stone and Gosling are a modern day Bogart and Bacall, equipped with all the same charm and charisma that made such classics such as Casablanca, iconic in the first place. Having a romance that is “old school” set in a modern-day Hollywood is so genuinely well realized. Never once did I feel like this is a gimmick or that it was “Oscar bait.”
The characters aren’t the most developed in the world, but the thing is, they don’t need to be. You know everything you need to know for both Sebastian and Mia to be emotionally invested and rooting for their relationship to work. You want them to be together from the moment they meet, and that is a credit to both the actors and screenplay involved.
So, why is La La Land an instant classic? I don’t use that term lightly, as I usually roll my eyes at this time of year when Oscar campaigns promote their films as a “timeless classic.” So what makes this movie so different? Well, to put it simply, it’s the feeling you get while watching it.
The optimistic tone that kicks off La La Land, to the film title that follows it is pure movie magic. What is movie magic? I’m not talking about CGI special effects or how Disney can build a replica of “The Millennium Falcon.” I’m talking about the magic that makes you feel like your heart is welling up with emotion, having your eyes glued to the screen and feeling that “warm and fuzzy” feeling all over your body.
This isn’t a highly talked about blockbuster epic such as Titanic (which is considered a classic), this is a pure, honest film that has the perfect balance of lightheartedness and real life consequences. Those who will relate to La La Land the most are the dreamers of the world. You know who you are. The ones who will stop at nothing to live out their passion, who sacrifice so much to live out their dream. Not everyone makes these dreams a reality, and when they do, is the happiness you have worth all of the sacrifices you had to make to get there?
Questions like this are In fact, timeless. The tap-dancing, songs and undeniable charm are just a few of the many traits that make La La Land both a modern-day masterpiece and an instant classic.
La La Land opens nationwide on December 25th, 2016