Movie Review: 7 Pros and Cons of La La Land (2016)

It’s literally impossible to miss the hype created by La La Land. Sweeping the film award ceremonies, such as Golden Globes 2017 and Oscar 2017, the musical piece has legibly made history.

I watched La La Land a few days back in the cinema and while I had high expectations going in, I came out with more feelings than I can handle. Curious? Read on what I have to say about the pros and cons of La La Land.

Note: There is an obvious spoiler below, so if you haven’t seen it, come back next time 😉

Pros

Setting

Who here previously think that La La Land is set in the 50s? The opening credit takes place on a highway in Los Angeles and started out with a musical number that confused my mind for a while. After 15 minutes in, I realised the movie takes place in a modern-day, but paid homage to the 50s musicals, which is very refreshing.

The setting also includes production and art design, which is phenomenal to say the least. I can’t ramble about these magnificent aspects because I have limited knowledge to it. But, as someone dear to me explained the changes in the colour palette, the design and backdrop happening throughout the movie, I appreciate La La Land more for its detailed and thorough setting-building process.

Technical aspects

While the art design and production exudes old-school Hollywood in this neo-classic musical, the technical aspect also helps in making La La Land a fully-rounded movie. The obvious one for me is the cinematography, which is very, very important in movies like this. The cinematographer Linus Sandgren uses wide-screen lens (shot in 35mm) that paid tribute to the old Hollywood musical, but in turn also captured the whole singing and dancing trope perfectly. My favourite cinematography scene is during the audition when the camera zooms in to Mia (Emma Stone) and slowly fades away to the next scene by showing Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) sitting behind the hills in Hollywood. If you have seen few old movies, you will notice they use the same trick.

Of course, the cinematography goes hand-in-hand with great editing, which leaves the audience transfixed to the scene and never let a single humdrum goes noticeable. Above all, director Damien Chazelle did a tremendous job in directing scene by scene with precise control and a full-blown creativity that comes into life in the big screen. One other trivia that I didn’t notice but was told is how there were no sad musical number in La La Land, which makes it even “digestible” for non-musical lovers as well.

La La Songs

I am not a big musical fan. There are a few musicals that I can sit down and watch, but most of the time it’s just too long or too much for me. But, when musical movies are made not for the sake of being a musical movie that’s when you know the movie is it. La La Land promises an homage to the ole’ Hollywood with its musical numbers and love letter to the city (re: hence the movie title), but it also gives more than that, which in this case can be found in their songs composed by Justin Hurwitz.

The movie begins with a chirpy and energetic tune ‘Another Day of Sun’ followed by another been-there-done-that number by Mia and friends: ‘Someone in the Crowd’. Both are okay, but the major numbers that won me over are ‘City of Stars’ and, of course, ‘The Fools who Dream’—both are heart-wrenching and perfectly placed in the movie that it enlightened the scenes and even elevate the impact. It’s hard not to get emotional when listening to Mia crying her eyes out while singing, “And here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem”.

Emma and Ryan

Reunited for the third time after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, the duo shines as Mia and Sebastian, a couple who share their ups and downs in the city of dreamers. Both have intense chemistry with the familiar jolly mood that are shared by those couple who seemed like friends more than lovers.

I really like Emma Stone, but I fell for her in the movie. Her big, green eyes, spunky attitude and vulnerable side were portrayed with great mannerism that there were times I forgot that she is Emma Stone and not Mia Dolan. Meanwhile, Ryan Gosling is not the best singer or dancer out there, but he stole a few scenes too. The actor is suitable as Sebastian Wilder who has high ambition and silent demeanour.

Theme

While most of us were led to believe that La La Land is a love story, in the end, it’s not. The movie revolves around two dreamers who shared a journey together while pursuing their ambitions. The film’s theme is love, of course, but it also offers smack-on-the-face reality.

Bittersweet ending

Which comes down to this… (Spoiler!): What a bittersweet ending! Everyone who has seen the movie will definitely talk about this. The movie paid tribute to the old Hollywood’s musical but it stops, take a different turn towards the end. The last 15 minutes was bittersweet to say the least. Some will love it and some will hate it, but let me ask you this: Isn’t this what life is all about? Being unpredictable as fuck. The ending is what makes the movie an instant classic, because there is nothing more powerful than a heartbreak.

Cons:

Other issues

Look, La La Land has issues. The most jarring one is how it slows down in the middle before it reaches the climax (re: the major fight). It kinda loses its way for a while, roaming aimlessly, which I don’t find it to be a major problem. It shows that the two are real people and sometimes real people just wander around aimlessly while chasing their dreams? This is of course a minus point, but not too much.

Second is the all-white cast? Ryan Gosling is white and he can’t play a jazz lover… Are you kidding me, now? I actually heard from someone at work that the movie has an all-white actors, which make sense if it’s based in the 50s as I previously thought. But, there are plenty of coloured actors in the movie. Heck, the movie even opened with an Indian girl singing her lungs out in the middle of LA’s traffic.

Would it be better if it’s an interracial love story? Why yes, but the two white actors are lovely and why can’t we stop at that?

Lastly, there have been major complained about jazz in the film, which is not my forte so I will stop at that.

Why I listed these down in the cons section because I feel there are some truth to them. Especially the part where the movie loses its touch, just for a few minutes, but bounced back with a hearty musical number and five years time jump.

However, my one con is that I do have a slight problem with how “fast” we get to witness the five-year period. I love the fact that they narrate it by inducing nostalgia parade and dream sequence of how life could be if they ended up together. But, I wanted more! I need to know why Mia and Sebastian didn’t end up together. The scene was a bit rushed to fit the whole closing-scene, which is a slight bummer. But hey! The mystery is there for me to keep on guessing.

Conclusion:

I went into La La Land with high expectations and came out with more feelings than I can handle. The broken heart, the yearning for dreams and the unpredictability in life will all hit close to home, for anyone really. For a movie that started out as an underdog, La La Land is a triumph. It even excels in disguising itself as a love story but transformed into something more.

Ratings: 92/100

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