The classic Hollywood musical gets an updated look while staying true to the genre with Golden Globe darling La La Land.
You know you’re in for a cinematic treat when the opening scene is a fully choreographed number set during one of Los Angeles’ infamous traffic jams. Everyone is listening to different music in their cars until one woman gets out of her car and starts singing. In a matter of seconds, more and more people join her until the sour mood has been turned upside down.
Other than the “Oh my God, it’s Ryan Gosling” moment that I had when he appeared on screen in the role of Sebastian, I was completely entranced by his character. Gosling and Emma Stone (Mia) poured their hearts into their characters and for a moment I forgot Mia and Sebastian weren’t real.
Set in contemporary Los Angeles, but with the streets mostly empty of cars and people, it almost feels like the 1940s again. The walls are covered with murals and music bars are on every block.
After Mia hears a lonesome piano while walking around after a party, she heads into one of these bars and finds Sebastian playing jazz. The rest of the world fades away and it’s just them.
Instead of placing a kiss scene in this moment, the story changes to focus on Sebastian and we learn these two are very similar: both are old school dreamers, she’s a struggling actress and he wants to open his own jazz bar.
In every romantic film, there’s a moment where everything is going a little too perfectly: Mia has written and will be performing in a one woman play and Sebastian is recording albums in a band whilst touring the country. However, burdened by the stress of her play, Mia lashes out at Sebastian for never coming home. After she performs her play to an audience of basically no one, she goes home to her parents’ house to rethink her life. Not all hope is lost, as she gets a once-in-a-lifetime audition for a movie.
However, this is not where the film ends. Director Damien Chazelle takes us five years into their futures to give viewers an epilogue filled with unexpected twists and turns. While some viewers might feel betrayed by the nature of this epilogue, the unexpected nature of it was a pleasant change from normal cinematic fare.
Even in musicals, never before has a soundtrack been so perfectly incorporated into the story. “City of Stars” is featured three times — for good reason — as it’s one of the most beautiful and timeless songs to ever be in a movie.
The plot, performances, cinematography, and soundtrack all work beautifully together to tell the old school romance of two dreamers who just want to make it in the entertainment industry. Whether you’re a fan of classic musicals or not, this movie will have you feeling the magic in no time.