Finally, a bold movie to sing and dance about

Review: La La Land

(M) Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

La La Land is a cinematic statement that has its foundations in the heritage of music and film, but with an eye to the future. It is difficult to categorise this project, because it is an unique fusion of music, romance and drama that deserves to define a new genre. Regardless of the confusion that comes with defining La La Land, there should be no hesitation for audiences to get out to enjoy this triumph by the celebrated director of Whiplash, Damien Chazelle.

The story brings together an aspiring actress and a jazz pianist who both pine for the future, but they keep standing squarely in the past. Mia (Emma Stone) desires to get out from behind the counter of the local coffee shop, but gets knocked back with every audition. While Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) aspires to own his own jazz club, he finds it hard for people to capture his musical vision. When these two come together, it is like the fusion of two worlds that should not mix, because their attraction brings out the best and worst in their lives. This fascinating love affair is conveyed through song, dance and a well-choreographed script that is set within the beauty of the multi-layered aspects of the Hollywood landscape.

Emotions cannot always be communicated through mere words and Chazelle has found a rare manner of conveying his story through a satisfying combination of song, dance, jazz and exceptionally talented performers. The young writer/director has found a marvellous way of communicating to audiences a beautifully endearing story through his cinematic fusion.

Gosling and Stone carry La La Land with a convincing level of commitment that provides the strength of character to match the script. They do not try to become musical artists, but show that they can convincingly sing, dance and play the piano. Their passion for these artistic crafts and for one another, provide the convincing and satisfying performances needed to make this genre-bending project successful.

What Chazelle manages to do with this screenplay is to develop an appreciation of the past, while seeing the essential need for forward motion. This dichotomy can be seen in the world of jazz, in the hard-fought world of the thespian – and in La La Land being a reimagining of the modern musical. He awakens both the hearts of the traditionalist and the dreamer to believe that all that is happening on screen could come true. For some viewers, this can be a celebration. For others, though, it will be difficult to stomach. So, be warned: if you are expecting the same Hollywood formula, you will be disappointed.

La La Land is a fresh perspective on filmmaking that will delight your soul for some time after leaving the theatre. It will make many cheer for its originality, but will make some uncomfortable because it is unlike anything else in cinemas. It’s strength could be considered a weakness, but there is little doubt that Chazelle cares.

Whether it is seen in history as a triumph or merely experimental, this is a film that can be described by words from its own script: ‘A dream! It’s a conflict and it’s compromise and it’s very, very exciting!’ To miss this film in theatres would be a travesty; it will move you in ways you do not expect.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

How do you communicate? La La Land shows that people can communicate through words, song, dance and even through a look. God has wired us all to convey our emotions, desires, dreams and thoughts to Him and to others, but sometimes we have to find the best means to share the things of life. This creator God has moulded creative beings and he desires for us to communicate with Him. He makes this possible through prayer. How you communicate with Him is not as important as communicating with Him. How do you communicate with God? Find it and get started! God is listening.

Passages on prayer and communicating with God: Psalms 141:3, Matthew 6:5 -15, Colossians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:7

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger




3 thoughts on “Finally, a bold movie to sing and dance about

  1. Warren Bird

    Saw “La La Land” last night and loved it. As my wife said, ‘how could anyone NOT like that movie?’

    From what I’ve read, those who don’t like it object to the ending, either because it is too much of a jolt or because they craved the traditional happy ending, as in all those Doris Day movies to which this one harkens back at times.

    For me, what you think of the ending triggers some of the key discussion points from this film. Can dreams and reality co-exist or not? What sacrifices have to be made in order to achieve what you are capable of? Do you think that the two characters are satisfied with their lives at the end, or will they carry for the rest of their lives the existentialist regret that Gosling’s character reflects on towards the finale?

    Though much of the “La La Land” is simply a delightful, slightly spoofy, retro song and dance romance, the non-traditional ending gives it much more depth and significance as a film for our times.

    Reply
  2. Warren Bird

    And a record-equaling 14 Academy Award nominations! Not sure it’s the best film I’ve ever seen, deserving of that many accolades, but this is testament to the quality of the performances, both on screen and in the film-making process.

    Reply

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