I decided to write about La La Land by Damien Chazelle this week. It is a L.A. love story between a jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring young actress, Mia (Emma Stone). The brilliant, Oscar-winning (YAY) Chazelle delivered the story in the form of a musical. It’s very nostalgic; Chazelle pays tribute to many classic ninetieth musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, but the story itself is modern and Chazelle definitely made it into his own style.
I have to say that I’m truly surprised by how much I’m in love with this film. I’m not a fan of musicals and am pretty cynical when it comes to romantic dramas, especially ones like this where everything is just so over-the-top romanticized. So it may seem like besides Ryan Gosling’s beautiful face, there shouldn’t be any reason for me to like this film at all. But in the midst of all the dancing and singing and floating in the planetarium, La La Land really touched me, evidenced by my crying hysterically for the both times I watched it in the theater and the many times on my laptop.
While writing for the film, I had a hard time pinpointing something that makes this film so great. Sure, there’s the obvious theme of love and dream and the conflict thereof, but I wanted to find something more. That’s just my approach to films. I always look for the deep, dark, underlying truth, the one profound, universal thing that speaks to love and humanity on a higher level. Now that I say it out loud, I realize how pretentious and self-important that sounds, but most of the time, this approach works. I would keep asking myself the “why”s and “how”s until I can come up with a message all deep and fancy. But it didn’t work with La La Land. It surely is not to say that the film is lacking in depth, but I think it’s evidence to the purity of it. There is no deep, dark, underlying truth. There is no man burning down his house and killing his children, nor is there the complexity of race and drugs and bullying and homosexuality and a crackhead mother. The story is so simple. A girl meets a guy. They share their hopes and dreams. They fall in love. They dance and they sing. They fight. They say that they are always going to love each other. They break up. And they move on.
So as I made my best effort to avoid talking about love and dream and the compromise between the two, I realized how stupid I was being. Why would I avoid talking about them when they are the entire purpose of the film? Why would I complicate such an unadulterated, heart-wrenchingly beautiful story that is becoming increasingly rare to come across?
I ended up talking about the things that probably required zero digging, and I truly appreciate La La Land for reminding me that love on the big screen can be just as simple.
Lastly, here is a clip from the film with Sebastian and Mia singing “City of Stars.”