Blah Blah Land
La La Land is a musical in five seasons written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). Itcan’t be denied that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have on-screen chemistry but it isn’t enough to convince me that their characters could possibly end up together (it didn’t work for me in Crazy, Stupid, Love. either). This film pokes fun at the superficiality and clichés of the city of Los Angeles while also paying homage to the popular movies and musicals of Hollywood’s golden era - as well as musicals by French filmmaker Jacques Demy. It’s clear that this was a passion project due to the meticulous care exhibited in each scene. These details often go unnoticed but in La La Land the color schemes, the difference in how the camera moves and when it employs a handheld feel, the way the lighting dramatically changes, and the piano leitmotif that gently supported scenes were all too obvious. And maybe that’s what kept me from being totally engrossed in the story and enjoying it as many audience members did: I was being distracted by the precision and not the emotion.
This distraction led to annoyance when Sebastien (Gosling) is intent on being a purist to a music genre which was born in expression and experimentation. Don’t get me wrong, the jazz music in the film was enjoyable (old and new), but it was the way in which Seb was so passionate about “saving” jazz that didn’t sit right with me. The other half of the film and relationship is Mia (Stone) who sets aside her practicality for creative pursuits. Her story mirrors that of many talented individuals who move to LA to pursue a career in the industry. It’s not easy, it bruises the ego time and time again, and it ultimately leaves her feeling hopelessly pathetic and lost. Seb and Mia navigate their passion with each other and with their art using a mixture of staccato and legato; intense short bursts and slow climbs.
La La Land is a love letter to the city of Los Angeles and the struggling artists who reside there and the filmmakers must have known audiences would fall for the glitz and glamour making it one of the favorites for the award season. I recommend viewing it for its artistic values just be aware that Chazelle’s nostalgia is taking you further than the story itself is.