There are fewer musicals produced by Hollywood than there used to be. Well, I say that there are but I haven’t run the numbers, I assume that there are… it certainly feels like there are. When they come along though, they feel special. They feel different, and it makes one wonder exactly why Hollywood doesn’t do them more often.
On the other hand, if Hollywood produced more musicals, perhaps they wouldn’t feel as special, and the Damien Chazelle written and produced “La La Land” should feel special. It is special. It is wonderful.
And now I feel like gotten diverted, sidetracked, sent down a little cul de sac of my own mind. I have, fleetingly, wondered about something tangential (the power and regularity of the Hollywood musical). Important, but perhaps not entirely germane to the topic at hand.
Except that, maybe it is. “La La Land” is about dreams and interludes and wonder. It is about making those fanciful diversions into something real. It is about happiness and love and sadness and romance and movies and jazz.
Cards on the table, the movie feels like it’s meant specifically for me. It isn’t just that I enjoy musicals, I also love movies about Hollywood and enjoy watching Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling. Check, check, and double-check.
So, what exactly is “La La Land.” If I stop beating around the bush and stop using too many words to talk around the movie, what exactly is it?
Well, there are these two people who fall in love over the period of several months and we watch it unfold. First, there’s Emma Stone’s Mia – a barista who wants to be a famous actress. Then there’s Gosling’s Sebastian, a jazz pianist who wants to own his own place but is instead forced to play an approved list of holiday songs at a restaurant.
The brilliance of the movie doesn’t lie within the story’s structure. “La La Land” is about the problems of two people and a legendary Hollywood movie once explained that the problems of two people don’t amount to a hill of beans.
Still, this is a great hill of beans love story, a hill of beans love story delivered with the incredible music, beautiful dances, and the utter devotion of the two stars at the film’s center. Ah, and then there’s the fact that so much of the key to the movie exists in the few moments when it does deviate from the traditional love story and, just when the audience needs it most, the story does indeed make a left turn.
But, that’s just story and the story isn’t the reason to go so “La La Land” (in case I’ve been remotely unclear, you should go see “La La Land”). Truly, it’s the music and performances that make it work.
Stone and Gosling are showing themselves to be two of the finest, most interesting, actors of their age group (groups? If IMDb is to be believed, there is an eight year age difference between the two and I don’t know how we divide these things into groups). I don’t like every movie that each actor does, but there’s always something there to think about, to examine, to sink one’s teeth into. It certainly helps that they are amazingly charismatic as well.
And so, in “La La Land” it’s their singing that is front and center, it is entirely their charisma on display. In that regard it is a throwback to a different era of star power, particularly as it’s a singing-and-dancing affair. I am sure that there are reviews out there that compare Stone and Gosling to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and the reasons for that are obvious and I would love to see them reteamed for another singing-and-dancing love story. Who wouldn’t?
In an era when so many movies feel overly weighty and too dramatic, “La La Land” is something lighter, more airy. If you want to see a fantastic movie that doesn’t demand tissues (not that there is no sadness) or an extended examination of where our world stands and how we destroy all that we touch, go see “La La Land.”
Honestly, even if that isn’t what you’re looking for, go see it anyway. Gosling and Stone are great. The music is great. It’s just great.
photo credit: Summit