Since it’s payday in the 60s, musicals haven't populated our screening in recent decades. This might be because our society wasn’t whimsical enough to appreciate their beauty. Thankfully that is changing. In a time when we are in desperate need of hope, musicals are becoming our escape. La La Land is much more than just a musical, it’s a film that awakens us to the forgotten magic of life.
To some, music is the soundtrack to our souls. It dictates our mood and can awaken unrealized emotions with a single note. Damien Chazelle has been able to tap into its various ramifications with his two directorial ventures, the intensity of Whiplash and the whimsy of La La Land. Just as artists can mirror social energy on their records, music in films can do the same. The passion that explodes from La La Land breaks down the wall of sludge that has overpowered recent years. The fact that such a hopeful film comes at the end of one of one of our darkest years may be coincidental, but without a doubt much needed.
The whimsy expressed in La La Land isn’t just fancy footwork, it’s using music as a backdrop for the hope that conceals itself in everyday life. Musicals have always presented an image of ambition. There is a suspension of belief that is required when viewing this genre, how else are you going to accept that random people break out in song and dance during a traffic jam. I believe that the lack of this jovial attribute on our society’s overall spirit was something that caused the downfall of musicals in pop culture. Our society became somber, leaving no time for unbridled glee.
That’s not to say that we are not still in dark and depressing times, but we as a generation are clinging to hope to get us through our unknown future. This hope can be found in monumental supply in La La Land. It is the perfect example of the magic that is present in our lives if we just take the time to look at it. The film isn’t just about the epic romance that occurs between our leads, but instead focuses on the unexpected paths we take when we live with passion in our hearts.
It’s hard to say whether or not the outcome would be the same with anyone else in the lead, but Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone truly are a dynamic duo. Their chemistry transcends compatibility into the realm of cohesion. When you have actors who work so well together, the risks they are comfortable taking allows the film to become palpable. In seeing the actors authentic souls on screen presents a safe space for the audience to unlock their own inner sentiments.
When these two talented actors are in a film it’s always a treat, but when they are together they create a vortex of revolving strength. Individually they can tackle any emotion, but when they are presented the opportunity to play off each other their talent is elevated. When one of them is mastering the awkward darling, the other fills the void of the tenacious champion. Gosling and Stone are simply beautiful together.
The beauty that is present in the film, alongside the actors and the music, is perfectly displaced within the visuals. The sweeping motions of the camera and the clever vantage points created by Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren will leave you breathless. Every scene is picturesque, capturing the plethora of emotions wandering aimlessly around our existence. These spectacles accentuate the tone of the film, and you can’t help but smile while optimism begins to take hold inside your heart. Each moment in time represented by the scenes present a different focused emotion. The cinematography transforms into a tool for the film, creating an opening for full sensory immersion.
When the powers expressed through the visuals and the music, La La Land quickly morphs into a jazz compilation. Jazz is the significant musical genre to the story, and the fusion of different sounds and tempos becomes an anthology of important life events. You begin to see the similarities between the brilliant mash-ups of jazz instruments and the randomness of life. It presents a spontaneity in our trajectory of life that has an outcome we are interested in to experience.
Musicals as a genre are a product of the unexpected possibilities available during our lifetime. For a while, cynicism was the overpowering emotion plaguing our responses, but without even realizing it, we have circled back around to the joyfulness of yester years. Chazelle has not reinvented the genre, but instead adapted it to our needs. La La Land is the film we never knew we required.
It might be cliche to say that this film is one of the best of 2016, but I’m going to say it anyway. It’s a unique look at life and the possibilities of the future. We are headed down a clandestine road ahead, but if we all can cling to the tiniest of hope presented in La La Land, we will be able to conquer whatever awaits us.
La La Land opens nation wide Friday December 16.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Fons PR