Review of “La La Land”

Photo: Summit Entertainment and somehow uncredited poster artist

(Lights up. The writer hits play and ‘Mia and Sebastian’s Theme’ begins to charm and inspire through the writer’s headphones.)

On my way to work today, I decided it would be a good idea to listen to the soundtrack to La La Land. It has been less than 12 hours since I left the theater after seeing the film itself and I thought, perhaps, I was emotionally ready.

Here are some of the things I said while navigating around cars and a quicker way to work, while also enveloping myself in the music.

“Why did I do this to myself?”

“This movie is so… STUPID.”

And then, certain moments (such as the one pictured above) filtered from my mental file cabinet and I was reminded just how…emotional I felt sitting in that theater last night.

From the things I said to myself in the car, you might think that I hated La La Land, but it is precisely the opposite. It is dramatically the opposite.

I met up with a friend from high school (and several years before all of that mess) named Hannah. We both adore Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and that was basically all we knew about the film. I am in this phase now … actually, correction: We are all in this phase now where movie trailers are designed with the entire plot and its various dramatic elements, twists, and themes laid out for us. It is truly sick. Lately, I have seen some improvements, and it is funny because I’ve noticed that the movies that definitely will get our money are the ones who don’t reveal too much about the plot. In their minds, we will love it and they will get paid.

Anyway, I do not trust movie trailers in general, primarily because hello! They’re not even “trailers” anymore, they’re “leaders.” If you understand this, I am pleased.

Apart from not staying true to their original designation, I am hyperafraid of even one aspect of a movie being ruined for me. So, that being said, I am going to go watch the trailer for La La Land, now.


Alright, so I just watched the trailer and I am thankful that I did not watch it before the movie. I’m thankful that I basically knew nothing about it in general.

Every moment of the film was new to me from the opening song, the punchy ‘Another Day of Sun.’ For the first several minutes of the film, I was brought back to my days of theatrical acting (I did that from the age of 3 until I was 18) and I was genuinely happy with this.

I solemnly swear to be basically spoiler free.

As we meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling  <3) and Mia (Emma Stone  <3) it is clear that these two are going to be fatefully beelined to one another. However, the way this occurs is very unique. The passion between these two is also the passion that drives them individually – the theme that wraps this movie (ah, pun).

What impressed me about this movie is its sheer normalcy. It didn’t feel like I was watching a musical, let alone one of the Live shows that are ever so popular these days. Anyone know the next one? Please let it be CATS.

The story flits away through the streets of LA, and the pressures of promised stardom are evident from the start. Mia wants to be an actress. Sebastian is a lover of jazz with piano-born fingers, a soft voice, and dreams to open up a jazz club in the midst of the rise of popular music (by today’s standards – i.e. Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendez, and those who must not be named…*three cigarette emojis*). They are both passionate about their crafts, experiencing and experimenting with their motives and inspirations.

The first monologue we see (and hear) Mia perform actually made me tear up. I was just emotional the entire time. I’m not kidding. Never has a movie made me feel so emotional with a single measure of music, a look from across the room, a turn in a different direction.

Let’s talk performances.

Emma Stone was the perfect choice, in my opinion, for Mia. I do not think that this is a role for someone we see too much. I was very excited to hear Stone’s singing voice because that is always an adventure. Remember when you first heard Meryl Streep sing, whether it was in Mamma Mia!, Postcards from the Edge (ugh Carrie <3), or Rikki and the Flash.

Gosling and Stone as Sebastian and Mia

It was an interesting experience for me, I promise you. And let us dream to forget those singing roles given to the likes of Russell Crowe (you made me hate you). Anyway, back to Stone. Part of the appeal of Mia’s character is her looks (physically and as a talent). In one scene, she walks past the other women auditioning for a role and they are all taller than her and their hair is even more dramatic. In a sense, the audience (of La La Land) is more entranced with the toned down, solemnity presented in Mia’s struggle for stardom. Stone convinced me of this struggle and I also love actors acting as actors.

Ryan Gosling (whom I fell for when I saw Blue Valentine) was very impressive.

Gosling as Sebastian in one of my favorite scenes

I loved Sebastian’s passion for jazz, his understanding of it, and the subtle way he drifts through the movie. Perhaps one of the best parts about this movie is the fact that the performances are so understated (namely Gosling’s). Singing isn’t the integral part. It’s music and dreams. As well, Gosling and Stone do not have the theatrical voices that are featured in the ensemble. It’s as if their singing (and perhaps this is actually the truth), is just for each other.

 As I reflect on this movie, I notice more and more. Here are some of the aspects of the film that I love:

  • It is interesting that Mia and Sebastian never really acknowledge the first time they see each other. It’s not in the bar and they don’t talk about the traffic.
  • The wall Mia walks by with the celebrities of times past (i.e. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Shirley Temple) was very symbolic and honestly a bit sad.
  • The scene with the photoshoot. Cringe cringe cringe. But I loved his tie.
  • The ensemble numbers were amazingly choreographed. Everything about this movie is so extreme but also so subtle. It is hard to explain. Very.
  • Finn Wittrock.
  • John Legend really hit a home run with me. I was so tired of hearing ‘All of Me’ that I basically cursed his name. I acknowledge his talents and all of that but this movie really made me enjoy him and I think a little of his passion for music came through with this role. Also, ‘Start a Fire’ is a hit in my book.
  • This is a love story for this generation. It’s like a breath of fresh air after a punch in the stomach.
  • Gosling’s piano skills.
  • The ensemble was great. J. K. Simmons is a treasure.
  • The planetarium. The silhouettes.
  • The symbolism of the Lighthouse.
  • The name he chose.
  • ‘Audition’
  • The last part of the film, the flashback and recap. Gorgeously shot and so necessary.
  • I also learned that nostalgia is a curse.

Please see this movie. I know a lot of people are freaked out by musicals but it honestly…isn’t one. It has music in it and people sing but I was so impressed by the display of talent and love that it made me want to ask the people around me if they were having a good time.

Because I was.

(Writer reads through, makes a few changes, and goes on his merry way.)

End scene.