Movie Review: La La Land
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
February 6, 2017
La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, is a magical Hollywood treat that doesn’t aim to just entertain. It wants to remind us why we love movies in the first place. It’s usually hard to fully appreciate something until the end. But here, the magic takes you over from the very first scene. You realize the movie is something special even as you’re still experiencing it.
Things begin conspicuously enough in what appears to be a regular traffic jam in an LA freeway. But soon it turns into something much more. A woman who was singing to herself suddenly exits her car and begins singing and dancing outside. Suddenly another driver joins her, as do others. Dozens of commuters join in the fun. They are dancing on roofs and hoods of cars. People are doing flips, skate board tricks and the musical number keeps growing and growing until it ends as abruptly as it began.
But before ending, it sets itself up as a mission statement of sorts for the movie. The scene embodies the emotional tone and spirit of La La Land. And through the song, it raises one of the movie’s main themes of following your dreams. The lyrics say, “Could be brave or just insane…we’ll have to see.”
That statement embodies the leap of faith required to follow your dreams. And it carries real weight for the leads Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who are both chasing their own dreams. He’s a jazz musician with aspirations to open up his own nightclub. But he has to play cheesy songs in bars and in an ‘80s cover band to make ends meet. She’s an aspiring actress who works at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. studio lot.
But it also speaks to all of the other drivers and by extension anyone who’s ever been captivated by the allure of Hollywood or another version of the dream so many of us pursue. Another very interesting thing about the opening scene is the fact that the two leads don’t participate in the big musical number and are for the most part absent. It’s a bold move to begin your movie without your movie stars, but it really pays off.
Sure, this is Mia and Sebastian’s story, but there are so many similar stories happening simultaneously. And that’s where the beauty lies. There’s something so universal about wanting to connect with the world through something you love. It’s also scary to think that there are so many people chasing after the same thing. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder if you’re actually good enough.
As the first musical number winds down, we see that Mia is too busy practicing for an audition to notice that the cars began moving. Unfortunately for her, Sebastian, who is behind her, has noticed and quickly loses patience with her. He honks; they give each other the middle finger and go their separate ways. As far as meet cutes go, it’s not very cute, but it’s certainly memorable. It’s also not the last time their paths will cross. The seeds have been planted for what will grow into their romance.