On Tuesday, December 13th Orange County Film Society Members were transported into a massive dance number on a L.A. freeway; it was a traffic jam opening perfect for the highly anticipated musical set in Los Angeles. The era of Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers is rather distant and while there have been film adaptations of Broadway musicals like Eastwood’s 2014 Jersey Boys, there hasn’t been a film quite like La La Land. It departs from the adaptations audiences are familiar with.
I’ve always enjoyed watching musicals. It’s a genre that allows characters to sing a song that intertwines with the narrative and sparks a dance number that you wish you could be a part of. This is exactly what I felt when watching Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. After seeing this film a second time, I can say that it still holds well. It has everything that it needs to be a successful musical: memorable songs, dynamic dance numbers (of which I wish there were more), and an engaging story of two characters falling in love.
La La Land stars Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a jazz musician with a dream of opening his own jazz club one day. The two begin to bump into each other around town and eventually fall in love during their first song and dance number. Along the way we see both Mia and Sebastian trying to make their dreams a reality in Los Angeles, which is a familiar and relatable story, as many aspiring artists continue to do so today. However, sometimes dreams are broken in the city of stars and sometimes they find the right opportunity to shine. The beauty of this film’s narrative is that it’s filled with aspirations but at the same time, it’s realistic in its dreaming.
Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling give wonderful performances. They both have a great way of using comic tempo in this romantic comedy musical. Yet, one of my favorite aspects of the film is the music. La La Land is full of catchy songs like “Another Day of Sun”, “Someone in the Crowd”, and “A Lovely Night”, but balanced with the instrumental compositions of composer Justin Hurwitz and the whimsical melody of “Planetarium” makes you feel as though you could float and dance amidst the planetarium of the Griffith Observatory with the main characters.
It’s no secret that La La Land is an ode to classic Hollywood. The characters mention films such as Rebel without a Cause, Casablanca and Bringing up Baby. The film also pays homage to Singin’ in the Rain and recreates brief scenes from An American in Paris and Funny Face adding to the nostalgic ambiance. Damien Chazelle definitely knew what he was doing when he made La La Land. He has immersed audiences into two art forms (jazz and musicals) that aren’t as prevalent today, but perhaps they can be, and what better way to do so than share jazz and musicals to a contemporary audience. La La Land is a wonderful and innovative film that will have you humming and shuffling to “Another Day of Sun”.