Having won seven Golden Globes and received raving reviews from every paper, magazine and website published, La La Land has become a must-see film during the Oscar season. The trailers although enticing, gave nothing of the plot away; possibly due to the fervently random nature of the scenes that piece together this story between two struggling artists. When you leave the cinema you will want to lead your life singing and dancing down every street, as La La Land makes musical numbers appear an ordinary and seamless part of the everyday (rather than the explosion of melodrama that can often be associated with a musical).
Ryan Gosling portrays a relatable darkness that can be found in those caught in a lengthy pursuit of their dreams. Gosling’s dedication appears not only in him having learnt tap and jazz piano for the role, but also in his depiction of Sebastian’s raw frustration with the hand he has been dealt in life so far. This adds depth and slight mystery to a character that at first, could be unlikeable. Emma Stone plays Mia in a role that combines the loveable, geeky, self-deprecating nature she is known for with a more serious talent and drive that enhances her character’s desperation to break from a dream into reality. Together Sebastian and Mia plug each other’s insecurities and come together to achieve what seems impossible.
The one large musical number is placed at the beginning of the film, setting the tone for bright colours, new movement and something a little different. Sinking back into the film, from here we get to know the characters aside from their ‘show’ personalities making their struggles more emotionally relatable, realistic and of our time. The musical numbers that follow are often haunting and laissez faire, seen as just adding music to dialogue, creating one long stream of narrative rather than something disjointed. The film provides an emotional rollercoaster that sets no norm. From Mia working in a coffee shop surrounded by film sets, to Mia and Sebastian taking flight to dance among the stars; nothing is ruled as impossible or too surreal. Yet, as ring tones interrupt conversations, a ‘samba-tapas bar’ is mentioned, and the ending to the film is not completely satisfying, it is suggested that we are still very much in the real world. Irony, bad timing and all, La La Land sounds dreamy, but it is very much still LA.
This combination of real and surreal not only portrays mesmerising creative license in terms of shots, setting and scene selection but also allows us as the audience to believe in the impossible. We are taken on a trip that expresses sadness, frustration and heart-ache: the reality of following a dream. This is juxtaposed with a surreal trail of scenes on the journey to stardom. As an audience, we can believe in the seemingly impossible as Mia becomes an actress, Sebastian goes on to own his own jazz club — and furthermore as the characters cannot have it all: the cliche, meant-to-be love story (although played to the audience on fast-forward as a piece of pure indulgence) doesn’t come good. The characters are not given complete gratification, which makes the achievement of one of their dreams more realistic. The audience does not come away with any secrets to success and so there is still confusion as to how dreams fit in with reality. This only leaves the audience with more wonder at the random nature of what has come before and with a deeper attachment to each character’s narrative.
This film will take you down a rabbit hole of escapism and bring you out wanting to laugh and cry. There is something very different about this film that has brought on its onslaught of success. You will want to see this film again and again, it couldn’t be better recommended.