As I’m sure a lot of people know, the movie La La Land has been surrounded by a lot of buzz in both conversations and award shows for the past couple of weeks. This is all for good reason, because this movie is like nothing I have ever seen.
Movie musicals are something that seem so rare these days, but when you think back to a lot of the classic early Hollywood movies, and even up to the 1960’s, most of them are musicals: Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and the list goes on. Seeing a brand new musical set in today’s Los Angeles about passionate people trying to achieve their dreams just simply warms my heart.
From the get-go I was excited about this movie because of the names attached to it. Not Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, we’ll get back to them, but Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the lyricists. I have been a fan of Dogfight since it premiered Off-Broadway years ago, and from what I’v heard of A Christmas Story and Dear Evan Hansen I knew that at least the songs would be good. I was not disappointed.
The first number “Another Day of Sun” is such a fantastic song. In my opinion, this song sums up living in Los Angeles and trying to remain hopeful in the pursuit of dreams. I am from the Los Angeles area, I go to school in the city, I have interned in the city, and I am constantly seeing theatre in and around the city. I understand why people want to live here, why they move here. We do have wonderful weather, I mean as I write this it is currently 65 degrees in January which apparently is not the norm for most parts of the country. Los Angeles does have a lot of beautiful parts, the skyline, the beaches, and Disneyland. I love being able to surround myself with culture in museums, art, and theatre, I understand and appreciate how lucky I am to be living here. I think that this first number is so much more impactful for those who are here. We just have to keep doing what we need to do to get to where we want to be. Also, as a side note, this song has basically been on repeat in my car for the past three weeks.
I also really enjoy the way this film was shot. I think that Damien Chazelle is such a wonderful director, especially during the song and dance scenes. They all seem to be single-shot scenes which make the talent of those on screen that much more visible. There are no cutaways to other, more trained dancer’s feet pretending to be Mia and Sebastian, they hold on the action in wide shots and makes it feel that much more like a Broadway dance number. In “Another Day of Sun” the camera follows dancer to dancer as new people come into shot, and it just feels like we are getting a glimpse at each of these dancer’s personalities. It’s different than other movies and media of today where there are jump cuts to avoid pauses in order to maintain attention spans. Its refreshing.
The use of block colors in the sets and costumes make the film so beautiful and exciting and aesthetically pleasing to watch for two hours. It makes it so simple and easy, not distracting from the story that is going on.
Something that seems to be an issue for some people is that they believe that this movie is not feminist. I whole-heartedly disagree. I understand where they are getting it from, a man is teaching a woman about music, telling her what she should do, but there are such feminist aspects to this film. For starters, Mia heard the music from the street, was intrigued by it and entered the restaurant by herself because she liked what she heard. Mia worked the job she had to work in order to be able to surround herself with what she loves and audition to be a part of it all. When Mia realized that she wasn’t getting any parts, she wrote her own part, produced it, and performed it. She was so happy with this decision and even though only a few people showed up, there was “Someone in the Crowd” who saw her work, really enjoyed her storytelling, and brought her in to audition for a role that would change her life and allow her to achieve her dreams. Also, there is nothing anti-feminist with following the advice of a man, she clearly didn’t even think to write a play before he brought it up. Sebastian is nothing but supportive of Mia, he believes in her when she was lost and it doesn’t even cross his mind that her gender could even possibly be a hinderance to success in her career and aspirations. If women following the advice and teachings of men is seen as anti-feminist, then people surely do not understand what feminism truly is.
This film tells such a phenomenal story of following dreams and learning how to forge your own path. This film shows that what some consider to be a “typical” path might not work for everyone, and that lesson is something that can be applied to anyone who feels a little lost in their career path. I just so happen to be one of those people.
I love getting to watch people who are so passionate about something, especially creative arts, and seeing them work towards achieving those goals. Watching characters that you can relate to go through situations that are similar to yours and working through their tough times can be so inspiring and helpful that your can get through anything.
Now, to talk about Ryan and Emma’s performances in this film. Emma Stone starred as Sally Bowles in Cabaret a few years back, so I knew that she had to have some singing and dancing chops. I was so impressed with her work, her dancing seemed so natural that I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything like this from her before. Her singing wasn’t Broadway belting, but the role did not require it and I think that she did such a wonderful job doing what was given to her. I think that Emma Stone is such a wonderful, comedic actress and knowing that she is capable of something like this makes me completely ecstatic for what is to come from this.
Part of me remembers in the way back of my brain the small fact that Ryan Gosling was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, a TV show just a little before my time in which the members would sing and dance. I knew he was on this show as a kid, meaning he had to have been able to sing and dance a little as a child, but I think the collective American memory has forgotten this over the past twenty years. Clearly, he has brushed up on his skills and put them to use in this film where he danced gracefully.
Seeing these two perform the way they did in this film warms my heart and makes me so happy. I have a feeling that the silver screen will be seeing a couple more movie musicals in the coming years as an answer to this. In the past few years it seems like the American public has been allowing themselves to be open to musicals on a bigger scale than just Broadway. I mean, part of me is still impressed Smash was created, produced, and aired for two seasons. This and the fact that NBC has been doing live musicals for the past 4 years and now Fox has gotten in on the game. I am so excited to see where this leads for the production of musicals not just on Broadway but on film and television. I am inspired, I am hopeful, and I am loving every minute of it.