“I live by the belief that the ones who succeed are the ones stupid enough to try.”
It was inevitable that any attempt at an original contemporary musical was going to have a backlash of being called ‘pretentious’. Add a director and two lead actors who have flirted with the Oscar circle, it just worsens the stigma. Stylize it as a love-letter to ol’ studio-musical Hollywood? Oh no.
However, if you’re can put this context aside and just watch what’s in front of you, you’ll be able to judge La La Land for what is. All that considered, not everyone will enjoy this film. If you’re someone whose stomach twists at any abstract method of storytelling or occasional blunt song outbursts, then I’m very sorry. Personally, I enjoy these nuances and thought this film actually managed to tell a unique love story – and a love story relating to two different things at that.
As also apparent from his prior work on 2014’s Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle has a mastery of conveying creative passion on film. Not just his own expression through the beautiful set-pieces and cinematography, but also characters with a strong artistic flair and mind-set. Unsurprisingly, considering Chazelle’s music routes, La La Land continues Whiplash’s obsession with jazz – the genre best-suited to presenting musical expression and flair. This time, it is shown through Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian: a talented and passionate pianist who can’t get the good gigs. However, this merely co-stars with the struggle to maintain resilience in the acting industry – embodied by Emma Stone’s Mia: an aspiring actress who can’t get the gigs. Wonder why they get along?
Through these two characters, La La Land presents a battle between love of your craft and romantic love. Yet, not in the conventional way of one being an artist and the other being the nag who doesn’t understand. Both are in a similar situation and, more often than not, a lot of their romanticism sparks from their creative passions: hence why it makes for such a well-fitted musical. Through Gosling and Stone’s archetypal chemistry, it provides a new perspective and, whilst having someone to love should always take priority, it’s nice to see a creative’s dreams given a voice of significance, as opposed to being discounted.
“Here’s to the fools who dream,” Mia sings. As one of those fools myself, it meant a lot to see that attitude acknowledged on film and in such a caring and romanticised way. I live by the belief that the ones who succeed are the ones stupid enough to try – the reason why I think so many see this as a ‘nosey-up’ to the industry is that the business itself is made up of those same idiots.
La La Land nods to the creators of the world, whilst also reminding us of the importance of love and that there comes a time where we may need to make a choice between the two.