Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I realized that Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) subtly foreshadowed what was going to happen to him and Mia (Emma Stone). But before I get into that, let us do away with the usual stuff first.
La La Land is a masterpiece of a musical from the director of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle. It’s set in Los Angeles (hence the ‘La’ in the title) and is an homage to classic Hollywood movies like Casablanca and Rebel Without A Cause. Sebastian is a jazz pianist who is fired from the restaurant where he plays music while Mia is an aspiring actress who cannot catch a break. They bump into each other more than once and eventually fall in love. Together, they try to find ways to make their dreams – his opening a jazz club and her becoming a famous actress – come true. Here are five things I love about La La Land:
1. The Music
Not only does the film heavily feature jazz music, every musical number is beautiful! Of course, City of Stars and Audition (The Fools Who Dream) are the favorites. Emma Stone’s performance was absolutely captivating. It was unlike anything she’s ever done before. Other songs like Another Day Of Sun, Someone In The Crowd, and A Lovely Night can get stuck in your head for days, too. You have to admit that Stone’s and Gosling’s singing feels inferior to that of Ingrid Bergman’s and Clark Gable’s. But I didn’t expect them to blow me away with their singing in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised by what they accomplished in this film.
Mia & Sebastian’s Theme is also a haunting piece. When Sebastian saw Mia in the crowd towards the end, I knew he was going to play it. I might just mimic Ryan Gosling and learn how to play the piano for real.
2. The Dancing
This goes hand in hand with the music in most of the sequences. However, it deserves a special mention because every production is well-choreographed. I hope you noticed that the numbers were shot in one take which requires a lot of patience and practice on the part of the actors. I especially love Mia and Sebastian’s tap dancing in A Lovely Night and their waltz in Planetarium. These scenes make me wish I was a good dancer. Here’s to the ones that dream!
3. The Cast
I might have already touched on this a bit but Emma and Ryan are perfect for their roles and they gave brilliant performances. Stone is receiving a lot of praise for her portrayal of Mia Dolan. But Gosling also played his character really well. Mia is the one who stood out but it wouldn’t work that well if Sebastian was not as restrained.
The supporting roles of J.K. Simmons and John Legend were a nice touch, though. They were almost cameos but Chazelle knew that this movie would rest on his main actors’ shoulders.
4. The Themes
If you think about it, the story is a bit cliche because it draws a lot of inspiration from previous works. But you don’t really care about it so much because everything is just well-made. Who among us have never struggled to make our dreams come true? Who has sacrificed loved ones in order to pursue success in their chosen field? These concepts are still relevant in the modern world and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
There’s a subplot about jazz music, too, and John Legend’s character Keith nailed it when he said, ‘How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past but jazz is about the future!’ That is exactly what the movie is trying to do – paying tribute to the past while embracing the future.
5. The Ending
If you have already seen La La Land, you know how gut-wrenching the last few minutes of the movie are and this is probably what I will be talking about the most.
For those who have not watched it yet, Mia and Sebastian drift apart. Five years later, Mia walks inside a jazz club with her husband only to find out that the name of the place is Seb’s. That was the name Mia suggested to Sebastian when they were still together. Sebastian sees her in the crowd and proceeds to play the piece he was playing when they first ran into each other. While the music plays, we are taken into Mia’s imagination of how things would have turned out if she and Sebastian ended up together.
This ending beautifully answers the question, ‘Is it possible for two people to be in love and not end up with each other?’ But some people might ask, ‘Did they make the wrong decision?’ I honestly believe that they didn’t. I would have preferred that they ended up together but that’s the amazing thing about having choices. Most of the time, we don’t really choose between right and wrong. More often than not, it’s between two particularly good options. However, during their final look, both Mia and Sebastian smiled. They were okay with what happened because they knew that they chose the path they were on. The real tragedy lies in not choosing anything. What’s even worse is wallowing in regrets.
To quote the Sebastian: ‘This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!’ He was referring to jazz music but he could easily have been talking about love and life. Love must have a purpose. It’s not just all feelings. That’s just infatuation. People talk about being destined for someone all the time. But that’s only half true. God brought Adam and Eve together for a reason – to be fruitful and multiply and to subdue the whole earth. There is no point in being together if that prevents you from fulfilling your God-given purpose. You are both missing out.
I might have strayed from my original intention for this review. But I am not afraid to say what needs to be said because I know that my love for movies has a purpose, too. I am called to know God and to make Him known and if talking about movies helps me do that then I am doing a great work.
That being said, I am giving La La Land 4.5 out of 5 stars.