I LOVE musicals. I’m often a cynical bitch but at heart I’m still a little girl and musicals almost always manage to awake in me a sense of wonder. I’ve watched the all time classics and the more modern musical movies, I’ve explored the wonders of Bollywood and apart from “Annie” (tfu tfu), there’s no stage production of this sort that I haven’t attended. And yet, “La La Land” surpised me and definitely goes out of convention. Can it be that it’s the sign of the upcoming new era for musical movies? (possibly the one that your male better half will enjoy too?)
The first scene of “La La Land” is a typical opening of a musical. You know the drill: “La la la, let’s dance together and tell people about the setting of a story”. However, apart from this scene one won’t see a lot of group dancing and singing that we’re used to. The songs are all pleasant but to be honest none of them is particularly catchy. Maybe you finished watching “West Side Story” humming “I’m So Pretty” or “Sweeney Todd” gave you trouble sleeping because of the song about the worst pies in London playing in your head over and over again. You surely know “Memory” from “Cats” even if musicals leave you rather lukewarm. “La La Land” won’t give you that. It is so because music is here an important part of the story and it’s meant to enhance it without stealing your attention from the plot. “La La Land” actually has a gold story which even without the music could have ended up making a decent love story. My impression of musicals is often that the plot is an excuse for singing and dancing scenes, rather than has a meaning on its own (“Cabaret” is probably one of a few exceptions). How many musicals would actually survive the exercise of being deprived of the musical parts? “La La Land” would. Don’t get me wrong, the singing and dancing is decent, even though it’s clear that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are not professionals. There’s a haunting repeatitive theme with a meaning and the jazz music is really good but this movie actually talks about something. It’s also not free of dream like sequences but in general lacks the overdramatisation of the genre.
What is the plot about? Two artists with dreams. She wants to be an actress and pays her bills working as a waitress, he’s a hired musician who would like to open his own jazz club. They meet, they fall in love, but more importantly they support each other in achieving what’s important to them. The love story is almost sexless and yet it’s very sensual and cute but first and foremost mature. There’s no sugar coating and the problems are close to life. It is a musical after all so there are some traits of fairy tale but there’s a lot of realism in the story and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to the characters. The choice of the actors is very good and they create a pleasant to watch couple. It is pretty much a two people show so well done to both of them for managing to keep the audience glued to the screen for just above two hours. Their acting is genuine and I did have tears in my eyes more than once not due to overdramatisation typical for the genre but because the story felt so true and so close to struggles of many of us. Didn’t we all dream to one day be a writer, an actress, a musician? The movie makes us wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t had abandoned these dreams.
Last but not least, those of us who have seen “Whiplash” would surely appreciate the wink of the makers to us. They seem to have quite a good sense of humor which makes the show even more pleasant. You can also tell that the underlying passion for jazz is what makes this movie so special. I’ve always thought it’s the music for the oldies but “Whiplash” and “La La Land” proved to me that I’m a complete ignorant when it comes to this tyep of music.
“La La Land” is a really exceptional movie. It is both realistic and idealistic and it does awakens some sort of longing for being the best version of oneself in the viewer. Perhaps, with the strong plot and dancing and singing being an enhancement rather than the core value of the movie it will be the beginning of a new kind of musical cinema. Wow!
Have you seen the movie, Dear Rinser? Do you like musicals?