BY BASMA HUMADI
(Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for those who have not yet seen the film.)
“La La Land” swept away the Golden Globes this year by winning all seven awards it was nominated for, setting the record for most Golden Globes won by a movie.
Since then, the film appears to be either vastly overrated or contains some allure audiences seem to swoon over. Some critique the film’s acclaim for overshadowing other beautifully crafted-films this year like “Moonlight.” Nonetheless, “La La Land” is a film that celebrates a tribute of the wonderful magic of going to the movies.
The title comes from the nickname given to Hollywood, a land of make-believe where people get their heads stuck up in the clouds and lose their grip on reality. The film tells the story of two people, each with their own dreams and aspirations, who end up in a relationship.
Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress working as a barista in a studio lot who continually gets interrupted mid-audition. She’s also surrounded by hundreds of look-alikes who want the same job.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz-obsessed pianist who dreams of opening his own jazz club. He struggles with trying to keep jazz alive because jazz music is a dying industry.
“La La Land” is a testament to so many things: to musicals, to “classic Hollywood,” to the city of Los Angeles, and to anyone struggling with achieving a dream. It pays homage to the slick dance moves of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers while name-dropping “Casablanca” and “Rebel Without a Cause.”
All the dance scenes are filmed with few cuts and unbroken sequences, echoing the habit of old Hollywood musicals. Mia and Sebastian walk, talk, and dance through the streets of L.A., whether it be at the Griffith Observatory or the Hermosa Pier. However, Sebastian says, “That’s L.A., they worship everything and value nothing.”
The opening scene “Another Day of Sun” immediately sets the tone of the film. It pans over the hundreds of people stuck in L.A. traffic, only to zoom in on one woman stuck in her car, and suddenly burst into musical. It immediately breaks the ice by showing its audience the type of movie it’s going to be. It features bright colors and a refreshing energy from people getting out of their cars to sing and dance along. Only for the song to end and the title, “La La Land,” to appear on screen.
The relationship between Mia and Sebastian highlights a lot of the common hardships when it comes to pursuing a dream.
“La La Land” ultimately tells a simple but effective story about two people, each with their own dreams and passions, that ultimately come to a crossroad when it comes to choosing what they want and who they want to be with. (Spoiler alert) That they don’t end up together in the end mimics that struggle – and perhaps even mimics why so many celebrity relationships end up failing, as a stalemate appears between advancing your career with busy schedules and just trying to be in a relationship with another person. In the end, both end up achieving their dream, but the heartbreak comes with the fact that they couldn’t do it together.
“La La Land” is a feel-good film that takes the audience on a journey through its catchy songs, such as “Someone in the Crowd” and “City of Stars.” Its aesthetically pleasing visuals engage the audience to indulge in the story it’s selling. From start to finish, the film manages to pull off its elaborate dance numbers while also managing to resonate in the heart of its audience.
“La La Land” can be exhilarating and fun, but it also does a great job of conveying those quieter moments – those moments where the music stops and everyone packs up and goes home. It shows those hopeful and melancholy shifts of self-doubt in trying to believe in your own dreams – especially when it feels impossible to see the finish line.
“La La Land” isn’t a movie that asks very big questions. Its story is simple and its characters are easy to understand. But that’s why the film is so magical: it’s those small moments of two ex-lovers smiling back at each other knowingly of what could have been.