Last year this time, I saw a movie that changed my definition of love for good. Tamasha by Imtiaz Ali, made me rethink all I thought I knew about love. And here comes another. La La Land. Is more than a love story yet, love is all it is about. A stunning montage of the purest elixir of golden age romance and timeless melodies, all put together to form a movie for the ages. As one of my friends put it so well, Our generation finally has a musical!
Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this movie, yet again has everything you could ask for in the team. Damien Chazelle, JK Simmons team up again, in a soundtrack by Justin Hurwitz who, by now we know, knows exactly how to make a generation fall in love with Jazz.
Though it looks nostalgic and reminds you of all the true romances of the 50’s musicals, LA LA LAND is thoroughly modern and very much a film of its era. While the movie is a love story for the ages, it battles hard against reality. It does talk about love, and falling in love, a life a dream that love could bring but it also asks the hard questions and the consequences that follow tough choices.
I personally felt it was one of the best directed movies of the year. Filled with beautiful long takes, amazing editing and the singing and dancing seamlessly blending into each other. I generally tend to not like musicals but this one, barely felt like a musical. The film is so effective in its romanticizing of L.A. that its very first scene takes the one thing everyone there loves to complain about — traffic — and turns it into a dazzling set piece.
It made me realize that characters in musicals not only understand love differently than those in traditional films but they turn that understanding into art—dancing, singing and transcending mere dialogue to become something greater, something purer, something closer to true romance.
In Chazelle’s vision, choreography matters and a simple piano refrain can have more power than a lyric. This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other. Los Angeles is filled with dreamers, and sometimes it takes a partner to make your dream come true. Even though it’s being called a love letter to LA, I think its more of a Love letter to passion. Just get out there, stop waiting, follow your dreams, love.
Coming down to the plot, we have Mia, an aspiring actress who is at the point of her life where all she sees are failed auditions and Sebastian, who is a jazz purist but is stuck playing Christmas melodies for a living. What’s common is a drive, a passion a love for their art and that’s what brings forth a connection that steadily turns into love.
We get all the magic and lure of eye contact from a stranger across a crowded room. Another playing the piano. Except that the look on her face tells you he’s no stranger at all. She’s not just staring — she’s falling. That’s the sublimity of Old Hollywood, where we believed that it could happen just like this. The rest is a journey where two people get to discover what the we all already know: that the reason they “don’t like” each other is that they already love each other. They just need to figure it out.
It was a huge surprise to me but Emma stone has the voice of an Angel. And the Audition song, she reminded me of Anne Hathaway in I dreamed a dream. That’s how powerful her voice is.
One scene in particular I loved was when Sebastian explains Mia about jazz. how it is more than just elevator music. He isn’t just obsessed with jazz, he’s convinced that the genre is on its last legs and it’s his sole purpose in life to restore it to glory. His character wants to play freestyle jazz instead of the Christmas jingles he’s been hired to perform because, damn it, if the people can’t hear real jazz, then it’s going to cease to exist.
Mia and Seb are two people who have been struggling to make their dreams come true. Amidst that, they fall in love. And while their lives start making sense, you start falling in love with them. But a jazz musician and an actress are two different people with two very different journeys.
Love taking them in a direction which was not what they planned initially. It would have very easy for the story to have taken a turn and get Mia and Seb together in the end, but just like Whiplash and the last smile in the end, that’s the beauty of La La Land. Love doesn’t have to be ‘together till the end of the time’. If two people who share the way they look at life, share a direction and begin a journey together, they are bound to build a life together. The connection is way too rare and the journey way too precious. But after a point of time, if life gives you a crossroad and you must choose, choose your dreams, choose your life, your passion you art. The love, remains. No two people who have been through so much together, would ever lose the value of that journey. the love doesnt go away, and the bond remains, forever. And in La La Land, a smile does it all. Conveys it all.
It’s a story of artistic passion, and how easy it is to get derailed from your dream. Sometimes it takes another person to push you back on to the tracks to find it again. Gosling and Stone get these characters, finding grace in their movement but emotional depth in their arcs; Stone has never been better.
It’s easy to start believing that dreams don’t come true till you don’t distance yourself from people you love when it’s exactly the opposite. Sometimes someone else sees our magic so much more brightly just when we think we’ve lost it. They push us back towards it when we are exhausted and stricken by self-doubt or tired or scared of failure. The lighter joyous things in life, getting closer to the people you love, fostering the connections you make – these aren’t the things that you need to sacrifice or the price you need to pay, they are the springboard that can help you take the leap when you are too afraid to look down into the water.
As Mia and Sebastian, Stone and Gosling give performances that are deliberately a little imperfect. Their characters have to reckon with compromises when chasing their impossible, and then maybe not so impossible after all, ambitions. As disappointment and bitterness slowly seep into the film, the effervescence drains out, only to return in full force in the epilogue imagining an alternate history that dissipates like mist. It’s a privilege, the nostalgia Mia and Sebastian feel and ultimately use as a means of personal branding, but it’s also too shallow a solace to keep reality at bay.
I think the ending brought the whole movie together. How that one song brought a flood of memories back, and in that one moment, both Mia and Seb saw the life that they could have had. But then brought back by reality. It sounds sad but the smile that they pass in the end shot makes it all better. They know. They both know in that one glance, that they would forever be a part of each other’s lives and everything they build and achieve would have traces of each other.
They saw and created and made all these things together. And that is a love far greater than any other kind I know. I don’t think you can erase or try to replace that kind of love. You are who you are because of the dreams you dreamt and the life you built together. So even if you are not together, that dream still remains and living it everyday is what brings you closer every second you breathe.
La la Land made me redefine love in ways only my own life has this year. And what a great way to end the year!
It’s easy to let the world get you down sometimes, especially in a year like this one. It’s easy to think that dreams don’t come true, and that love only exists in movies. “La La Land” serves to remind us that movies can still be magical, and they can still provide the channel for us to see magic in the world around us. It’s not so much another day in the sun, as the characters sing in that opening number, but the dreams of the night before, the ones we wake up and try to fulfill, that keep us dancing. It is a movie that didnt leave me with any other feeling but satisfied. A story to believe in, a love to live for, passion to work for.
It is, of course, the music that remains: a constant companion and guiding light. Maybe life having a soundtrack is but a dream, but as La La Land’s remarkable music proves, it’s one well worth believing in.