Don't you just wish people started singing and dancing as they talked about their life decisions, complete with beautiful choreography and song writing? Well, reality is pretty harsh to provide us with such luxuries; it's a good thing we have musicals to fill that empty void in our hearts, then.
I don't know about you, but there's something so enchanting about people dancing and singing though a narrative, especially when it flows so well that it seems impossible that a bunch of human beings were able to conceptualize it. It works your left brain's love of order and arrangement and your right brain's love of chaos and flamboyance that it's no surprise when people get addicted to musicals as much as others get addicted to drugs.
Musicals started in small actors' guilds, eventually making their way
into Broadway and finally to a wider audience on the silver screen. Some would
argue that a live stage still produces the purest form of musicals, while
others say that musicals are meant to be enjoyed by the largest number of
people possible, but that's a topic for another article.
La La Land is a homage to old movie musicals that takes inspiration from classics like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Singing in the Rain. Though set in modern times, the design and art of La La Land seem to be stuck in the 80s, with bright colors, art deco designs and hand-painted murals revitalizing themselves throughout the film.
Unlike classic movie musicals, La La Land doesn't show the world through utopian-goggled eyes. It shows the struggles and compromises of following your dreams and the little hiccups along the way. It's more grounded in reality and follows the story of two people, an aspiring jazz musician named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and a dime-a-dozen aspiring coffee shop actress named Mia (Emma Stone), in the backdrop of Los Angeles.
It's a technical marvel how Damien Chazelle maintained the feel of old
movie musicals by using Cinemascope to shoot the entire film. It's not as clean
and crisp as today's standards, but there is a sense of nostalgia and tone to
it that just works with musicals. The art direction of the film was pretty
meticulous with how they blended a modern touch to old school musical elements. It's a better execution than Baz Luhrmann's attempt at the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.ÃÂ
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have this great chemistry onscreen that has crescendoed over their past two films. They easily represent the old movie couples that we've seen in black-and-white films. Individually, their performances were great. Together, they were incredible beyond all measure. They sang, danced and acted so beautifully that it was hard to picture anyone else in their shoes (even though Emma Watson and Miles Teller where first considered for the roles).
In general, Damien Chazelle succeeded in crafting this world of musicals with a heavy touch of reality.
The opening song is still stuck in my head even after watching it a few days ago. Opening with "Another Day in the Sun" (which sets the tone of the whole film) and up to the final note of "City of Stars", every song is memorable. It didn't fall into the trap of singing every mundane scene, but it chose the right moments and intensified them with great focus through lighting and set.
You'll see classical musical checklist scenes like tap dancing, mob choreography and soliloquies, but all of them are done in a modern way that only Damien Chazelle could own them. Film has the advantage over theatre musicals in terms of camera angles, and he took advantage of this by making musicals feel new again.
Overall, La La Land is a great film and deserves a spot with the great classic musicals. Technically and creatively, it is both a great movie and a great musical. It kept the look and feel of the classical movie musicals but made the story grounded in reality that it felt a little bitter sweet by the end.It shows us that life is about struggles and compromises, and to achieve your dreams, effort and sacrifices are required. From the conception of this film to the moment it won seven Golden Globe Awards, that concept echoes true. We'll be expecting more great music-themed movies from Damien Chazelle and the continued bloom of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone's chemistry.