I went into La La Land knowing virtually nothing about it apart from seeing the odd video about it and being recommended the soundtrack on the home page of my Spotify. I hadn’t even seen the trailer. But like most films I watch, I’d heard many good things about it. Obviously, within the good was a sprinkle of criticism which did make me worry a little but I didn’t expect any less. I’ve never seen a genuinely perfect film and I knew that wouldn’t change after seeing La La Land. But it was pretty close to being perfect.
Like many Oscar Nominated films, I was pessimistic about seeing it which is why I put off seeing it until today. Especially with it being up for so many awards. Films that win big during award season are normally quite bland retellings of the same story just with a slight but still orthodox twist. But La La Land was different. It was enjoyable even though it does conform to a handful of Oscar Nomination stereotypes.
It feels like a classic from the off. Whether it’s the slight nods to classic old musical movies, the old fashioned items the two main characters possess or the fact that it’s a musical and a film with a cliché story line that still feels new.
It feels comfortable and familiar even when watching it for the first time. It knows that it’s a musical but it also knows that it also has to be a film.
It is so well constructed. Normally, when a film is bad I switch off and ignore the story line and instead try to find something good about the cinematography or the editing, or maybe the special effects. La La Land was different. You could appreciate all aspects of the film because each part caught and held my interest. It’s an ideal mix of good cinematography with brilliant acting and thought through editing.
It was so well shot. It used long and continuous takes perfectly.
Subtle and not-so-subtle lighting changes to signify the beginning of a singing or dance number.
The first act is mirrored and almost reshot but within a different time and context in the final act which I love. Mirrored and circular storytelling is something I wish I could see more of in mainstream film.
The way each scene was joined together was obviously well thought out. It flowed so smoothly and when reflecting on its editing and construction, you feel even more satisfied with the movie as a whole.
The characters actually have some substance. They’re likeable but you can still see that they are flawed and human even though they just so happen to be and live in Hollywood. Both Mia and Sebastian bring out the ambition and ‘struggling artist’ – whether we’re struggling actors, musicians or whatever – in us all. They make you want to learn or teach yourself piano and dance until you can’t feel your limbs. They’re both cynical and charming which are two qualities I love seeing in people.
Gosling. I know him as that guy who’s in a few good films that I’ve either not seen or not particularly cared about. I didn’t see La La Land because I’m in love with Ryan Gosling and want to see anything/everything he’s in but I came out wanting to. The way he conveys his character, Sebastian’s passion for jazz pulled me in. His pure love of classic jazz and the people who turned it into the genre it is makes me want to consume every single second of jazz music ever created. He’s relatable, like its said in the film, he’s a traditionalist that wants to be revolutionary which almost all creators can identify with to some degree. Like most struggling artists, he sacrifices his love of traditional jazz to hopefully get his name out and becomes what is seen as a ‘sellout’. It’s a typical not an irritating sellout like Mark in Rent. Gosling is so much more than just a pretty face in La La Land and it’s so refreshing.
Stone. Like with Gosling, I’ve not seen much of her work. I saw and tolerated her performance in the Amazing Spiderman films but felt like her character needed some substance which I just put down to poor writing. Mia, unlike Gwen in the Amazing Spiderman movies, has substance. Her ending may not have been enough for me but she has a personality and charm, and wasn’t just there to be a love interest the whole time. Not only did she, as a character, have substance so did her relationship with Sebastian. It didn’t totally come out of nowhere and not make much sense when properly thought about. Yes, it was a cliche for them to fall in love but it wasn’t out of sheer convince. She doesn’t sit around and passively deal with Sebastian’s shit. She has struggles, opinions and is a human with emotion.
It’s witty, emotional and honest even with it’s slightly sugar coated moments. And, like any good film, it makes you feel things and doesn’t feel horribly forced. The latter being quite rare especially with a film that’s also a musical.
All in all, La La Land was surprising. Surprisingly well thought out, surprisingly honest and even more surprisingly, genuinely enjoyable to watch. Even with it’s classic tropes and its carefully selected yet recycled ideas/moments, it feels like something you’ve never seen before but still feels like you’ve seen it a million times in such a perfect, nostalgic way