Ahh, Valentine’s Day. The overly-commercialized holiday when hearts of pink and white are everywhere and giant, two-foot-tall teddy bears lay in the aisles of Walmart. I’m not the kind of person who’s keen on romance, or romantic films for that matter, but today I got the chance to see a film that’s been sweeping award ceremonies and earning praises from critics and musical lovers alike: La La Land.
Warning: That be spoilers ahead.
The film begins with a musical number occurring right in the middle of the usual Los Angeles traffic jam. Yes, you heard me right. Although a traffic jam is the least likely of situations to perform a musical number, La La Land makes it work. We see people of different ethnic backgrounds and of different professions dancing on the hoods of their cars as they sing about being in “Another Day of Sun”. It sets off the vibe of the film beautifully, introducing us to the 1950s movie-musical flair we’ll see throughout.
We’re then introduced to our two leads: Sebastian (Gosling) is a pianist with a passion for jazz, while Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress who goes to auditions with stride while balancing a job at the Warner Bros. Backlot’s coffee shop. I immediately became intrigued with Mia’s story. She’s living in one of the biggest entertainment cities in the world, trying to earn her mark, all while trying to handle the challenges that keep popping up in her life. Sebastian faces similar struggles. He’s trying to launch his jazz career by performing in a few nightspots, but he can never seem to get the attention.
Sebastian and Mia’s hardships are relatable because any creatively-fueled person has most likely tried to earn their living just like our heroes, working minimum-wage jobs and consistently going from one place to the next to try and earn a spot in a new film or the most popular nightspot. They make various sacrifices and take many risks to ultimate achieve their later stardom. Sure, the ‘follow your dreams’ manta is very overplayed and tiresome to most, and becoming an actress or a musician does seem more like a fantasy these days, but at least they try, and in the end, succeed. La La Land is very much a ‘earn your happy ending’ story, as one failure quickly turns into a positive throughout the film’s course, like when Sebastian joins The Messengers and Mia gives the audition of a lifetime after futile auditions. Gosling and Stone’s performances seal the deal; it felt more like I was watching two, real-life people rather than two actors performing from a script, if that made sense. There is pure, raw emotion that comes from these two.
Throughout the film, we see many different Los Angeles locales, such as Griffith Park (where Sebastian and Mia perform “A Lovely Night” underneath a dusk, purple sky) and the Hermosa Pier (where Sebastian sings about the “City of Stars”). I loved the production design in the film; by showing these well-known places, we’re brought further into Sebastian and Mia’s story, as if we’re following them around in real time. The songs are the icing on the cake; they’re perfectly classic Hollywood. My favorite was Mia’s penultimate song, “The Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”. The lyrics are an ode to those who create and aren’t afraid to go for their dreams, sung by someone who’s just that type and hoping to make it big through what she’s capable of creating.
All in all, La La Land is worth the hype. I’d even go far to say that this is the next Moulin Rouge, with fantastic production design, relatable characters, and powerful music that’ll be remembered fifteen years into the future. If you haven’t checked out La La Land yet, I highly recommend you do. It’s worth every single minute.