“Here’s to the ones who dream,
Foolish as they may seem.”
The world presented in La La Land is one of beautiful surrealism and reflecting “what if’s”, where the outstretched hands of the talented struggle to grasp onto the future they’ve long been hoping for.
Mia (Emma Stone) is an on-studio barista who, by no coincidence, aspires to be a Hollywood actress, and one day walks the set of which she has become so familiar. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who spends his evenings creating background music for restaurant goers – putting on a fake smile in the hopes of receiving tips. His love for the impromptu and hatred for the set list eventually leads to him being fired by his stern, but ultimately reasonable boss, Bill (J.K. Simmons). In fact, it’s the refusal to follow Bill’s rules that begins the relationship between our leads. The chemistry between the two actors is clear from the start, which, along with the quick-witted dialogue, only reinforces the believability of their budding romance. It’s hardly surprising however, given their previous roles alongside one another (Crazy Stupid Love, Gangster Squad).
The story of Mia and Sebastian is, of course, the main focal point of the film – however, in a similar vein to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” or Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”, there is an equally important character hidden within. An ethereal visualisation of the city of Los Angeles – LA. A city of coincidence, filled with the hopeful, who sing in the streets and dance through the stars. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) excels in creating a setting that does more than just compliment the story – it’s a key part of it. It fuels the characters wishes and makes them believe they will come true. This, paired with the original music and choreography, is a joy to watch.
La La Land is not only a film about love. It’s a film about sacrifice and the effect it has on life and relationships. Do you let your feelings stop you from achieving your goals, or, do you accept that maybe they’re not worth it if it means letting go of the present? Chazelle explores these themes with ease, without, like many do, falling into the trap of being overly serious. On the outside it remains a wonderful telling of two people who are searching for something more.
When we start to reach the end of the story, we jump forward a number of years, and see the fate of the characters. Up until this point I had loved every second of the film, I couldn’t look away – but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous at the site of the writing on the screen. So many films suffer at the hands of rushed endings. The type where it says “10 years later”, and suddenly we see that everything has worked out the way we had hoped, how great – the end. In many ways, La La Land does do a similar thing, but there’s something about it that’s different. It shows us how it could have ended differently – taking us back through the story and showing the major effects of the minor differences. It’s a beautiful ending for a beautiful story. Are they happy with their choices? The last shots of Mia and Sebastian answer this question perfectly, making it clear that in the dreamlike world of La La Land, if your dreams are worth it to you, they will come true.
Review by Chris Flay