La La Land: A Classic in the Making
“La La Land” is not the only cinematic musical of 2017 but it may be the best.
Winning all seven of its record-breaking Golden Globe nominations — including Best Musical and Best Director — “La La Land” has quickly become one of the most talked about films and likely has more awards to come with the announcement of Oscar nominations on January 24.
What makes “La La Land” an interesting choice for the glamorous, sought after film awards is that simultaneously idolizes and mocks the fame and fortune Hollywood attaches to the arts.
In one scene, on the Warner Brothers studio lot, where the aspiring actress Mia (played by Emma Stone) works as a barista, we get our first glimpse into what makes this movie great. When she gives her flirtatious new friend Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a tour of the studio lot, the two walk past a romantic scene being filmed. Mia then recounts her reasons for wanting so desperately to be an actress, as the couple being filmed in the background swoon in each other’s arms. But, as soon as the director calls cut, the faux-couple immediately starts bickering.
At that moment, when Hollywood’s facade is the most clear, Mia utters three words: “I love it.”
And Mia makes us love it too.
Writer and director Damien Chazelle relates to those who like Mia but may not like jazz, and have never seen “Rebel Without a Cause,” through the relationship between Mia and Sebastian. Chazelle brings the audience into the fold of the musical and infatuates them with the classic Hollywood long since past.
“La La Land” is a simultaneously playful and sobering look at what it means to pursue one’s passion. For Mia, her passion is acting; for Sebastian, it is jazz, but only pure jazz of course. The two find each other after concurrent meetings and end up falling in love. For them, and for the audience, the story is a journey of discovery: whether one really can have it all. Can Mia and Sebastian both do what they love and yet still have each other?
The heart of the film comes from musical performances by Gosling and Stone — who won Best Actor and Best Actress at the Globes, respectively.
One of Stone’s numerous heart-wrenching moments is early in the movie where she is rudely interrupted during an audition. Chazelle added the scene when Gosling told him a story of one of his worst auditions, in which he was rudely interrupted in the middle of a tearful audition by the casting director taking a phone call.
“We made lemonade out of it because it made it into a scene in the film,” Gosling said in the same interview with the LA Times.
The scenes are acted by tried and true actors and written by a veteran director so, not surprisingly, they strum a chord with the award-granting-Hollywood-gods. However, the film also holds truths relevant to any movie goer, no matter their passion or profession.
The fear of failure and the desire to truly know another person rang true for the worldwide viewers who paid a total over $130 million to date at the box office to see Gosling and Stone sing and dance across the screen.
Despite the shaky notes and missteps, “La La Land” holds a certain magic. Not only does the film pay homage to great cinema of the past -- it is a classic in the making.