La La Land: A First Impression
by Kristen Rose
As I sit here, listening to the soundtrack after returning from seeing the film, I am filled with even more emotion than when I initially left the theater. Let’s talk about all the ways this film is heart wrenching, shall we?
The musicals that La La Land pays homage to were made in a time when America, and the world, really, needed a pick me up. War was happening. The Great Depression was happening. The colors and songs and dancing in these films in the 40s and 50s were a way for the public to escape the stress of everyday life. It helped them to forget, if only for a little while. And, in today’s day and age, with everything that is going on, La La Land serves the same purpose, but it gives so much more.
La La Land is a modern musical through the lens of the musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. It pays homage to those films in so many different ways that I nearly lost count. From the framing to the colors to the wardrobe to the sets to the actual dance numbers, La La Land honors An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, Broadway Melody of 1940 and so many more in just over two hours.
The performances of our two main actors are best described as “down to earth”. Their singing isn’t the greatest. Their dancing isn’t the smoothest. However, it’s very real. It’s believable. The performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling anchor this film in the realm of reality.
Jazz music gets an awful lot of hate nowadays and that is absolutely baffling to me. Jazz, in my own opinion, is the one genre of music where you can see and feel the musicians’ emotions as they play. The music by Justin Hurwitz showcases what’s to love about jazz, while Benj Pasek’s and Justin Paul’s lyrics really give the audience something to grab on to.
One of the most heart wrenching moments in the film occurs at the end, when we flash back to the moment when Mia first hears Sebastian playing the piano, when she enters the club. As we know from the beginning of the film, their, technically, second meeting doesn’t go well, and they don’t actually speak to each other until the third time they meet. Jump to the end of the film, we flash back to that very moment. Sebastian reacts differently this time, resulting in a completely different ending for our two main characters. What’s that he says about jazz music? Something like ‘the same song is different each time depending on how the people play it’?
For those of us fools who came to the City of Angels to pursue the dreams that we have had our whole lives, this film hits home. And it hits home hard. We’ve all experienced the feeling of “I’m not good enough” like Mia did. Unfortunately, we aren’t all as lucky to have a Sebastian in our lives to push us when we’re stuck, to push us when we’re embarrassed, and to push us when we’re scared. But, thankfully, we have Damian Chazelle’s film. We have his wonderful words, his wonderful pep talks through the character of Sebastian. And that, my friend, is enough to keep us going.