La La Land: LA Fantasy?

Before our Oscar viewing party tonight I’m attempting my first formal movie review! Let’s hope my fiancé approves since this area is more his specialty. We saw La La Land on New Years Eve with a packed audience weeks after the initial theatrical release. Serious hype! (Record breaking Golden Globes, endless nominations for Oscars.) Dana’s father of course immediately fell asleep since he’s not a fan of musicals. I have never seen a trailer, so it confused me when everyone started singing and dancing during the opening traffic scene. (At least I can say I didn’t pollute myself with preconceptions from questionably edited trailers!) Be warned there are some SPOILERS! Proceed with caution.

The story takes place in Los Angeles chronicling the parallel careers of Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling), directed by Damien Chazelle. Throughout the movie, a prompt appears on screen showing the current season to show the passage of time. (Unlike New England, LA does not have seasons!) Mia is an aspiring actress and part time barista, who lives with 3 roommates in LA. She competes with a waiting room full of other women. Sebastian, is a struggling jazz artist, who is seemingly single-handedly trying to take on “the man” to preserve the art of jazz. (I won’t deep dive into my issues with the prominent lack of diversity featured.)
Chazelle first sets the scene for Mia and Sebastian’s first abrasive encounter in the horrendous LA traffic. Mia is looking down and practicing her lines in her green Prius for her next audition en route to her barista job. Sebastian has the misfortune of being stuck behind this distracted driver. He aggressively honks his horn and bypasses her in the left lane. I admit, if Chazelle was going for the charming and somewhat whimsical encounters, coupled with beautiful backdrops, then the movie works. I’ll even give him the one catchy song (“City of Stars”). Passionate proponents of the musical insist the casting choice of Stone/Gosling over performers with musical and dancing backgrounds was intentional. Part of the charm is that the characters are relatable. Then again, the realism of imperfect dancing and weak singing in LA also conflicts with the transient fantasy scenes. (I’m looking at you, dancing in the sky scene for their first date at the observatory.)

Would you pay to see this live?

While the technical execution of performance sequences are not top notch by any means, I won’t deny that I did enjoy the movie! Everyone emerged from the theater with their mood lightened and spirits lifted. The iconic sunset scenes served as a perfect backdrop to Mia and Sebastian’s quirky dance number and budding romance. My favorite part of the movie was John Legend’s character Kevin, who serves as a foil to Sebastian. They grew up together entrenched in the Jazz community, but Kevin sold out for performing what the people want to hear. (John Legend’s singing was excellent of course, but he does this for a living.) After some inner conflicts, Sebastian gives in and agrees to record and tour with Kevin’s band called “Messenger”. Sebastian sees this as a stable gig to maintain a nice lifestyle. Meanwhile, Mia decides to pursue her dream after repeated audition failures to write and perform her own one woman show, So Long Boulder City.

Their relationship set in this semi-fantasy glamorous LA life, chronicles several seasons to years and with their ups and downs. I agree with the dissent to the ending of the movie. All that buildup for their relationship (you got us invested), Mia winds up with someone completely different. At this point, both Mia and Sebastian have achieved tremendous success in their careers. Mia’s face is plastered all over LA with her new releases. She even revisits the coffee shop she worked at, and emulates the famous actress earlier in the movie who insists on generously tipping. Sebastian also opened up a popular Jazz club called “Seb♪s”. (He used the logo that Mia drafted back when they were dating.) I am not quite sure why Sebastian still needed to remain single, and obviously emotionally stirred when he spotted Mia and her husband.
temp1Also was it necessary for her plotwise to have a boyfriend she barely cared about? She dumped like hot potato for a first date with Sebastian! Now the ending… They imagine what life could have been like if they stayed together, but then it snaps back to the cold reality. With all the escapism fantasy throughout the movie the ending doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway those are a few of the imperfections that I can’t seem to overlook.

I adore Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone respectively in their various roles throughout their careers. Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash impressed (and disturbed) me. Yet, the musical when compared to my favorites in the same genre doesn’t quite impress me. Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Singin’ in the Rain as a few examples. Even most Disney Musicals (Frozen, Mulan, Moana, Little Mermaid). I would consider this more of a romantic-comedy than a musical in terms of enjoyment. I’m ready now for the dissent to the popular opinion.

Rating: 3.5/5 ★★★1/2

Categories: Movie, ReviewTags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. Hey Hanna! I meant to leave a comment about this movie, especially since the Oscar fiasco. I watched the movie only about 2 weeks ago because I needed to know what the hype was about. I also didn’t know that it was going to be a musical. While I enjoyed the songs and dance, and Ryan Gosling, I thought the movie lacked depth. And one critique that was given for all its nominations was basically that the Academy loved that it was a movie about itself.. and this was the downfall of Hollywood. I actually agree with the critics. I’m so happy that Moonlight won, for real. While I only watched the trailer, I could tell that it was a more meaningful movie than LaLa Land. I’m with you on the 3.5 stars.

    Liked by 1 person

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