La La Land: A musical masterpiece

Daniel Pollock, Online Reporter 

La La Land broke records when the film won seven Golden Globe awards, which came months after the film’s initial hype began.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival in Aug. 2016, and star Emma Stone flew home with the best actress award. At the Toronto Film Festival a week later, the film won best picture, making it a serious Oscar contender.

But when La La Land was wide-released, a major portion of the American audience responded with a simultaneous yawn, with Rotten Tomatoes giving the movie a mediocre audience rating of 88 percent. This disappointment is often seen with hyped movies but most of this negative response most likely comes from ignorant viewers.

The story La La Land tells is a simple one: an aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone), meets a passionate jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and they fall in love—all set in an overtly romanticized version of, as the film’s award-winning song calls it, “The City of Stars”—Los Angeles. Viewers shouldn’t expect the fast-paced, plot-twist-filled stories Hollywood hands out today. La La Land is a classic and it tells a classic story.

La La Land is a musical, which is explicitly displayed in the opening scene as LA dreamers dance and sing atop vehicles caught in a standstill freeway and again later, when the two main characters dance into the air and spin around planets and stars.The fluid choreography in this scene was inspired by WALL-E and EVE’s fire-extinguisher dance in WALL-E.

Those who don’t appreciate musicals should save their ten dollars. Many of the dissatisfied viewers most likely don’t understand or enjoy musicals—they heard the hype and assumed La La Land would be different. It’s not. Those who don’t like musicals will not like La La Land.

Pace-setting director and screenplay writer Damien Chazelle was inspired by the technicolor made-for-film musicals that ruled the box office during the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Many dance sequences are reminiscent of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, though the footwork is simplified for Gosling and Stone’s amateur skills.

Supporting character Keith (John Legend) asks Sebastian, “How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist?”

Watchers can imagine Chazelle hearing this often from Hollywood executives and producers. But La La Land is completely revolutionary while staying completely traditional.

While the whole movie is a nod to classic Hollywood, Chazelle—with his music and costume departments—has created something entirely fresh and new. But not all the success is do to the director or stars.

The music, written by Chazelle’s college friend Justin Hurwitz, is bright yet brooding and altogether memorable. Mary Zophres headed the costume department, which is inventive and snappy colored in electric blues, reds and yellows. The locations and cinematography are unparalleled. As a whole, the film is a piece of style. La La Land is one of a kind—completely old yet completely new.

The film, due to its cinematic artwork, is now being shown in IMAX theatres across the nation. Locations include the Southcenter theatre in Tukwila, about 40 minutes from the Pierce College Puyallup campus, and also the theatre at The Seattle Science Center.

Despite a simplistic story, Chazelle’s screenplay holds strong through the entire two hours and eight minutes. A few unexplained mysteries (such as Sebastian’s tension toward Keith when they first see each other) are the only detractions. But in the final ten minutes of La La Land, a memorable film becomes unforgettable.

Both recipients of Golden Globes, Stone and Gosling each give brilliant depth to their clichéd characters. There’s an electric chemistry between the two, their emotions and reactions are authentic and relatable.

Stone’s portrayal of Mia deserves the buzz it’s receiving. In Stone’s best scene, the camera focuses solely on her as she sings through an audition, during the song she easily holds the audience using only her emotions and passion.

Gosling’s performance is also solid, though not at the same level as his co-star. Gosling has shown his talents reach beyond acting. No double was hired to play piano for Gosling—all the music is his own.

While some have found La La Land as an over-hyped mess of a movie, anyone who has ever had a dream will relate with the story and the disappointments, setbacks and success of the main characters.

To avoid disappointment with the movie, viewers should go to the theatre expecting an imperfect film.

They should expect a classic musical that is completely new, a simple story and yet a beautiful one.

La La Land will be remembered long after its initial hype has worn off and the critics and haters have stopped their heated rants. The story—of dreams and hopes—is timeless. In the film, Mia inadvertently explains the its success when she says to Sebastian, “people love what other people are passionate about.”

Chazelle’s passion for Hollywood, for musicals, has made this film a triumph.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost

Daniel Pollock

Daniel Pollock

Online Reporter at The Puyallup Post
I like writing. I’ve scribbled several short stories, a partial novel and one and a half screenplays. I started writing for fun when I was nine; I was frustrated with the silly mystery books aimed at my age group, so I wrote my own. The story was poorly worded and cliche’ with a rushed ending, but it was my first piece and I’ll never forget the thrill I felt after writing the final sentence. My writing was born from reading. At age 11 I read Dickens and at 13, Fitzgerald and Lee. When I’m not typing words onto a screen, or turning the tan pages of a novel, I cook. Before I was tall enough to ride a roller coaster, I cooked. Everyone I knew thought I would go on to culinary school. But for me cooking is a pastime, not a paycheck. Another hobby of mine is music. I play the piano, and (though, I’ve never actually played one) dream about owning an organ. This is my first job on a newspaper; I doubt it will be the last.
Daniel Pollock

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Daniel Pollock

I like writing. I’ve scribbled several short stories, a partial novel and one and a half screenplays. I started writing for fun when I was nine; I was frustrated with the silly mystery books aimed at my age group, so I wrote my own. The story was poorly worded and cliche’ with a rushed ending, but it was my first piece and I’ll never forget the thrill I felt after writing the final sentence. My writing was born from reading. At age 11 I read Dickens and at 13, Fitzgerald and Lee. When I’m not typing words onto a screen, or turning the tan pages of a novel, I cook. Before I was tall enough to ride a roller coaster, I cooked. Everyone I knew thought I would go on to culinary school. But for me cooking is a pastime, not a paycheck. Another hobby of mine is music. I play the piano, and (though, I’ve never actually played one) dream about owning an organ. This is my first job on a newspaper; I doubt it will be the last.

La La Land: A musical masterpiece

by Daniel Pollock time to read: 3 min
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