March might seem a little too early to be throwing away such a title, but the masterpiece that is Damien Chazelle’s, ‘La La Land’, is well-deserving. Chazelle (director of Oscar-winning ‘Whiplash’) really imagined something special when he created the musical, not only for music lovers, but for the vast majority of aspirers, reformers, and dreamers. Although I am indefinitely biased towards this film, being a fan of jazz myself, it wasn’t just me who was blown away by the visuals, performances and amazingly written soundtrack. The Golden Globes proved La La Land worthy of our time by breaking the record for most awards won for ‘Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy’. ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Screenplay’ was awarded to Chazelle for his reimagined take on a classic musical, and both Ryan Gosling (The Notebook), and Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) went home with best actor/actress. The two also took home the same awards for the BAFTAs. So why was the film such a hit with a wide audience? Well, aside from making you want to buy a polyester (or wool?) suit and tap dance in planetariums, La La Land creates a little home inside your heart for itself.
Before I get into the plot, I’ll firstly point out that it gave me plenty of ‘(500) Days of Summer’ vibes. Thinking about it now, this is hardly surprising due to the huge impact the soundtrack has in both films. Another similarity is the romance between the characters (Since I will go on to talk about the ending, a spoiler alert is necessary at this point- go and see the film!). To quote Marc Webb’s 2009 film, “this is not a love story, it is a story about love.” If you’re familiar with (500) Days of Summer, starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you’ll be aware of the obvious similarities between the characters of Summer and Tom, in comparison to La La Land’s Mia and Sebastian. Despite not living happily-ever-after with Summer, Tom Hanson realises his dream of becoming an architect with her help. Likewise, in La La Land, Mia marries and creates a family for herself in the 5 years she is away from Sebastian, however it is with her help that he finally discovers his passion is still in classic jazz clubs.
It probably obvious by now that I have no negative thing to say about this film. Every scene was a sight for sore eyes; absolutely mesmerising. The planetarium scene is an indefinite example of this. Silhouettes dancing amongst the stars, what more could you ask for? If anyone else deserves praise for the beauty the film became, it is the costume designers. Not only did Sebastian’s suits give you those wonderful L.A. vibes, but the bright dresses the girls brought to life during the ‘Someone in the Crowd’ number contrasted each other stunningly.
Personally, the best scene has to be the A Lovely Night dance sequence. Not only is the song beautifully written (the addition of whistling being very effective, despite its simplicity), but the choreography of the tap dance worked so amazingly. Being a very sad excuse of a dancer, I’m not one to take much interest in these kinds of scenes. Despite that, I was worried to blink and miss a single step of the dance. I was awe-struck. The setting may have played a huge part of that, however. For a film trying to represent L.A., it certainly did its job. A still from this scene can be found on all of the
and rightly so. It most certainly caught my attention and the overall film did not fail to impress.
If I were to describe the film in one word for you: Jazz. Sebastian’s life is centred around his love for jazz which ultimately leads him to invest in the club. The character himself, upon meeting Mia, describes how jazz is dying, but that’s not only in L.A., or in the film’s own universe- it really is. Jazz is now easy-listening and isn’t as appreciated as it used to be. This makes Sebastian’s love for the music so much more inspiring and heart-warming. It’s always moving listening to someone talk passionately about something they love, so it’s impossible not to fall even more in love with Gosling’s character after hearing him do just that.
John Legend, writer and singer of ‘All of Me’, makes an appearance in this film, playing Keith, an old friend of Sebastian’s. Legend was taken away from his usual choice of instrument, the piano (since that was now Gosling’s character’s instrument) and helped to learn the guitar, instead. The character he plays is the lead vocal and guitarist of a band called The Messengers, who’s musical style is a lot different and strays far away from the usual and typical jazz. As the very quick scene with the drum machine, during Sebastian’s first recording session, doesn’t give you the right hatred for dance and pop music you were supposed to feel at that moment, the concert does. With astounding live music being played in very small clubs up until this point, ‘Start a Fire’ really doesn’t give you the same amazed feeling- as planned. The whole concept is to make the audience have a sudden realisation about how different music is now and how blinded by bright lights and drums machines we are to a lot of the very small, special things, such as, jazz clubs and vinyl players. Of course, no fan of EDM or pop went home and deleted their previous playlists after watching this film, but to a lot of people still living for those small musical moments, like me, it really gave you a sense of pride.
La La Land, in all its glamour and elegance is a modern-musical masterpiece that I’m certain will stand the test of time and still continue to be a hit in years to come, not just for the niche jazz enthusiasts, but for dreamers and aspirers universally. Modern musicals have been changed and it’ll take a lot to beat Chazelle’s genius.