Yesterday, the highly anticipated stateside showstopper ‘La La Land’ opened in cinemas across the UK. It’s been dubbed ‘the musical for people who don’t like musicals’ which does have some truth to it.
The soundtrack to this love story is a perfect blend of traditional musical theatre and jazz, its recurring piano theme gives life to the story, and you are guaranteed to walk out with the ditty still ringing in your ears. But despite it’s over the top overture, the film manages to find an off-beat quirkiness which gives it it’s originality.
The amalgamation of old Hollywood chorus numbers with an honest and real storyline it what makes this film a hit.The story centers around two characters, Mia and Sebastian, who meet via chance encounters at parties full of LA socialites who they don't fit in with. As an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz musician the two embody the classic tale of star-crossed lovers who meet at uncertain times in both of their lives.
The two fall in love, spending each day perfecting their crafts together, in hopes of achieving their life long dreams. For Sebastian he is trying to save the dying art of jazz, beautifully portrayed by Ryan Gosling who spent 3 months mastering the piano which brings the film to life. Unlike Sebastian, Mia (Emma Stone) has a much more common dream, to be an actress in a city with lots of opportunity but little compassion.
As the film score says, the ‘city of stars’ eventually takes it’s toll on the pair, seeing one sell out and the other fall short. The ill-timed successes and failures of each character creates a divide in their relationship familiar for a lot of couples. Their story tackles the question of picking between two loves, the love in your life or the love of your life – your passion.
In the end the twinkling lights of city blind the two young lovers, causing them to part ways in the name of art. A bitter-sweet end to an extravagant tale of finding your place in ‘the business’.
The film was shot entirely in CinemaScope, reminiscent of old Hollywood classics, with scenes filmed on studio lots and painted sets which interchange rapidly with every new dance number. But as much as it is a huge romantic ensemble, it’s real charm is in its imperfections.
The singing and dancing were most defiantly not of broadway standard, but that only added realism to the fantasy. It would have been easy for casting directors to find the best triple threats in the business to play these roles, but the missteps are perhaps a mirror image to the flaws in the characters relationship.
Ultimately underneath all the glitz and the glamour, the story was rather simple, a love story that didn’t work out. Perhaps that was trying to make a point out of Hollywood as an industry and as a city. The name La La Land evokes the idea of a far away dream land, which in many ways this film is. But behind the large facade it’s actually the same as anywhere else, where when things don’t work out how you hoped they would, the world still keeps on turning. Proving that even in La La Land, you don’t get to have it all. ★★★★