Movie Review: La La Land
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
February 6, 2017
The movie is about a lot of things (movies, following your dreams, life, etc.) but in one way or another, it all comes back to love. One of the movie’s biggest achievements is how it captures the magic of falling in love. Mia shows up late to their first date to see Rebel Without a Cause. Because of this, she stands in front of the theater to find Sebastian. In doing so, she makes as grand a statement as anything you could see in the movies she grew up worshipping.
And there, the tentative push-pull dance of new love begins in earnest. The sight of Mia and Sebastian’s hands nervously brushing up against each other is something that we’re all familiar with. We’ve all taken that plunge with the hopes that the other person will leap with us.
New love can often make you feel like you are floating, and here that feeling becomes a literal representation. Mia and Sebastian gracefully float in the air and dance among the stars until they finally share their first kiss in the Griffith observatory. It’s a delightful flight of fancy that serves as a testament to the beauty and magic of filmmaking. The scene deserves to live on in the annals of great cinematic moments. It should be studied and discussed for generations to come. And years from now, a future filmmaker wunderkind will wistfully look back and point to it as the moment where he (or she) fell in love with movies.
It’s that same love for cinema that drives so much of La La Land. Chazelle’s infectious appreciation for the craft and its history is evident in every frame of the movie. The movie is filled with visual callbacks and homages to old Hollywood, but its reverence isn’t just limited to inserting references. The movie is made by someone who clearly understands and has a masterful control of the craft.
The colors pop right off the screen and the shots are so perfectly executed that it feels like visual poetry. Admittedly, at times his style is a bit flashy, but it never becomes overwhelming or distracting.
And it certainly helps that the leads are so magnetic in their roles. Sure, Stone and Gosling aren’t the best singers or dancers, but that’s kind of the point. Their chemistry alone could light up the LA skyline. They not only make for a believable couple but they’re also one that you can’t help but root for.
Unfortunately, as their love is growing, in the background, it seems that life is conspiring to drive a wedge between them. Sebastian joins an old friend’s jazz band that requires him to tour and record for long periods of time. He essentially pushes his dream aside because he believes that Mia wants him to have a steady paycheck.
She eventually gets an offer to move to Paris for a big film role. They both know they’ll always love each other, but also know that they have to follow their dreams. It’s a sad reminder that sometimes life gets in the way of our plans and sometimes the timing is just a bit off.
And in that way, La La Land calls to mind another music-related movie, the unfairly overlooked Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by the Coen Brothers. In that movie, a happy ending for its title character (Oscar Issac) ends up slightly out of reach because the timing isn’t quite right.
But in its final act, La La Land gives a sort of epilogue that can only be found in the celluloid world. It’s magical, exciting and beautiful. It’s a mini-movie cherry on top of this amazing cinematic cake. And it reminds us that even if the happy ending never fully materializes, a version of it will always live on in our hearts.
For all of its technical brilliance, catchy music and great performances, the movie’s greatest strength is its abundant heart. Chazelle has affectionately crafted a captivating love letter to old Hollywood that has an infectious, uplifting spirit. It’s a movie filled to the brim with love, made with love and about love. It’s a salute to all those who chase after their dreams no matter how high the odds are stacked against them. And it’s a beautiful reminder why those dreams will always be worth pursuing.