La La Land – A true musical journey

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Music by: Justin Hurwitz

Lyrics by: Pasek and Paul

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend

Movie musicals are my favourite – from Golden Age Hollywood classics to modern jukebox musicals, I love them all. Naturally, when I got the opportunity to review La La Land, I was over the moon. Movie musicals are usually extremely tricky. They can so easily go one way or the other so I was intrigued to see what La La Land had in store.

La La Land tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician and their struggles to make it in their own careers as well as navigate the complicated world of love. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have been one of my absolute favourite on-screen pairings since 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love and they don’t disappoint. Their chemistry is off the charts and they feed off each other’s energy so well.

opening scene

The opening sequence is fantastic – I’ve always dreamed of a full ensemble number while sitting in traffic so this definitely caught my attention. It’s a great mix of mundane reality and musical fantasy and sets the tone so well for what’s to come.

dance scene

The influence of Singing In The Rain is quite evident, with many dance scenes invoking the same feel as that classic we all know and love, in particular the scene where Mia and Sebastian dance in front of the LA skyline at sunset. There’s even a nice moment with Sebastian leaning from a lamp post à la Gene Kelly. While it borrows from its Old Hollywood counterparts, it never feels like a copy or a rip off. La La Land definitely holds its own.

seb

Justin Hurwitz does an incredible job with the music. It is sensational – I was humming it for days afterwards. There is a definite Old Hollywood feel and it almost feels Gerswhin-esque at times. My only criticism is that I wish there were more songs in the film as it loses a bit of its musical feel in the middle section, but then it hits you with an end sequence that is honestly one of the best and most poignant musical sequences I’ve seen in years so that more than makes up for it.

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While Gosling and Stone aren’t the most technically skilled singers and dancers, they do exceptionally well and I actually love that about them because it brings a great sense of realism to the film – it’s not overly polished; it’s deep and real and meaningful. The standout piece for me is Mia’s audition scene towards the end. The emotion with which she sings in mind blowing – you can feel absolutely everything she’s singing and it’s a song that has stayed with me ever since.

For actors and musicians, this film highlights the intense difficulty of the industry we chose – or, I should say, the one that chose us. The feeling of audition after audition and never getting anything; of working jobs we don’t really like to make ends meet and being so close to giving up but finding that intense love of what we do that keeps us going and pushing long after many others would have given up. Sometimes, like Mia and Seb, we just have to keep pushing and take risks to make our dreams come true.

ending

The ending is quite something – I won’t give too much away but it’s one of the things that makes me want to watch this movie over and over again. With seven Golden Globes under its belt, this is definitely one to watch.

La La Land is truly an ode to the dreamers; to those of us who have a dream and passion inside us so strong that it guides us through every decision we make. And that is so important to this story. The consequences of one decision, or even two, can change an entire life. So here’s to the ones who dream, crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that ache, here’s to the mess we make…

Author: Samantha Cerasoli

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