La La Land - A Homage to People Who are Passionate
This is not a love letter to Los Angeles.
This is a love letter to passionate people, who have dreams and want to succeed.
Damien Chazelle is the director of this masterpiece. Chazelle has also written and directed 'Whiplash' and 'First Man'. Both movies are critically-acclaimed and 'La La Land' is no different.
The feel of this film is raw and realistic and if you are 21 and around my age it hits you right in the feels, because this isn't your stereotypical 50s, Hollywood love story. Chazelle brilliantly gives you that idea, but come by the third act it is everything but your normal 1950s musical, love story. Chazelle creates his own modern musical and almost perfectly. The cinematography is fantastic. I am a huge fan of long takes and they do that in this film plenty. However, my FAVORITE part of the whole film is Chazelle's BRILLIANT use of color. Every scene the color of the wall, the clothes, the scenery, it all serves a purpose and is representing the emotion in the scene. I can't wait to give an example. Lastly, the score by Justin Hurwitz is beautiful. There are really only about seven songs, but throughout the film, they are composed in a different way to fit the feel of the scene and it is so beautiful. I could not name a favorite song from it. I be bumpin' to the soundtrack in my Mazda 6 as if it were a Ski Mask the Slump God song.
'La La Land' is an AMAZING film and every single actor KILLS it. I do love MY KING, Ryan Gosling, but Emma Stone stole the show with every scene she was in. I'll get more into certain scenes that just had me going like, "H O L Y S H I T!". But, let me talk about my king--Ryan Gosling. Gosling LEARNED how to play the piano for 'La La Land'. This man really said "Fuck it, I'm going to practice six days a week, two hours a day, three months before we even start filming, so they don't have to hire a double." John Legend, who plays Keith, said he was pissed when he found out it took Ryan Gosling only three months to be that good at the piano. But, John Legend was like "Say Less." and he learned how to play the guitar for the movie as well.
If you are seeing this kind of dedication, passion, and work ethic going into any movie, you know it's going to be a good ass one.
Now let's get to the good, good.
Let me tell you about what this film did to me emotionally. It FUCKED me up, but in the best way possible. The themes are simple and realistic. 'La La Land' is about sacrifice, love, and passion. However, it's not just about doing all three things for the person you love, so you can be with them. It's about doing these three things for yourself and you being the person you wanted to be before you fell in love.
Sebastian, Ryan Gosling's character, is an aspiring jazz pianist, who got "Shanghaied" from his dream. Now, he obsesses over anything jazz, like I obsess over Chipotle. Sebastian wants to open his own jazz club and show the people what he sees and hears when listening to it. It is funny, because Sebastian gives off this vibe and energy that he doesn't like anyone and that everyone is against him, this macho man personality. Oh, but we find out that it's all just a facade.
Now, Emma Stone's character, Mia, is an open book. She is an aspiring actress, who works at the coffee shop that's on the lot of Warner Brothers. She just wants to be in the movies, like her aunt was.
Mia and Sebastian are both stuck in life at the moment. No, like really. They are stuck in LA traffic and everyone around them broke into song. That's how the movie starts. (A HA HA, headassery is back.) Anyway, they are stuck in their dream careers, Mia can't get a gig and Seb is playing Christmas music at a restaurant and they meet on the highway in a very romantic way. Sebastian is honking his horn at Mia to drive, because she isn't moving, so he speeds past her and she flips (flicks, for you weird-ass people) him off.
Mia then goes to work and she serves coffee to this big-time actress and everyone including herself is just staring at this movie star. She dreams that one day that can be her. This seems pointless, but it comes full circle at the end. But, then reality hits. Right after that Mia has to leave to go to an audition and someone doesn't see her and runs right into her and spills coffee all over her white shirt. This is the first sign of the reality that Chazelle shows.
So let's skip ahead a little bit. Sebastian and Mia have run into each other randomly three times in this big town, called Los Angeles. Ever heard of it? The first two times they interacted were not good, because Sebastian is just trying to be an asshole. But, him and Mia finally meet and talk.
He is walking her to her car up this massive hill and he says "This is like the third we've ran into each other. Maybe it means something."
First, just that little line alone is great, because in old Hollywood films we'd get the two love interests to not like each other, but then something happens and boom they fall in love. Well, Chazelle does that here to us and he has Sebastian say it. Then Sebastian and Mia agree that no way this is supposed to mean anything and if it does Mia will decide that, because she is a bad bitch and doesn't need any man (except Greg, the dude she is dating at the time). They then break out into song "A Lovely Night" and the lyrics are basically saying "What a waste of a lovely night, because we aren't together and we don't even like each other," but wait they are dancing perfectly in unison and enjoying each other's company. SOOOOOO throughout the song, they start to realize they do feel something, but they aren't sure what.
Now, you remember when I said color plays a HUGE part in this movie? Well here's my first example. In this scene, Mia is wearing a bright yellow dress and on the archetypal color wheel, yellow represents illuminations, happiness, and perfection. This scene is like a dream or something you'd see in a uhhhhh... MOVIE. That's the nod to old 50s movies from Chazelle. He is making his own modern musical/modern love movie while still tipping his hat to the 50s. It's so simple, yet genius.
In this scene, the LA sunset is in the back and it looks so perfect that it must be CGI, but it's not. It's the actual sunset of LA and Damien Chazelle had to film at a specific time for it to look like that. They filmed between 7:20pm-7:50pm and Stone and Gosling took five takes of this scene and they ended up using the fourth take. It is amazing the effort that went into this film.
Then, we see Sebastian fall for Mia after that lovely night. So, we see his macho man persona go away for a while. Next, just like he does with jazz he fully commits to getting to know Mia. He shows up unannounced at her work and then we see the first real heart-to-heart talk and it honestly is so accurate to what it would portray in a real-life scenario, but then they are surrounded by dreams and when I say that I mean the movie sets they walk by. Chazelle doing his thing with the whole reality vs. dream. It is a little awkward, but it's genuine and as the scene goes on and Sebastian encourages her to be a writer, and he's known her for all of 15 minutes. It catches us, the viewer, and Mia off guard. It is such a pure moment in the film. Sebastian goes full simp here. Then Mia states, if they are going to talk, he should know that she hates jazz. Sebastian then takes her to a jazz bar and he describes jazz in such a beautiful way it would make anyone who didn't like jazz before reconsider. You see this connection between Mia and Sebastian that can only mean one thing. They are soulmates and will end up together happily ever after. LOL.
Later in the same scene Mia receives a call back for a role in a TV show. So, just like any other movie from the 50s everything is looking up and it's going to be great, right? Wrong. The biggest difference in this movie modern music/romance is that the female lead has a dream too. In the 50s it was during a time women weren't given the opportunity to follow their dreams as often as it is now. Mia is so passionate about wanting to become the next big star.
Another great thing about this movie is that it genuinely wants people to achieve their dreams. I would honestly say the subplot is the romance between Sebastian and Mia. The main plot is that they both want to achieve their dreams and them meeting each other we see as their dreams take a back seat, but in reality they are growing together to help each other reach their goals.
One of my favorite sequences in the whole film is the Planetarium sequence, because they start by sneaking into it and are just dancing. This is reality and then they start floating in the solar system and are dancing and it becomes a dream, but really I believe this scene is just representing what they feel emotionally inside for each other and how it feels like the connection they have is out of this world.
Not to mention that Mia is wearing a green dress in this scene and green represents renewal, hope, and growth. They are starting something new and they want to grow together. It is so subtle and the first few watches you probably don't realize it, but everything in this movie is there for a reason. Damien Chazelle is a fucking genius.
At this point in the movie, I'm simpin'. Not gonna lie.
Then we get to the turning point where everything is about to change and the way it is set-up technically is just different from any other scene leading up to this point and that is the scene when Mia and Sebastian sing 'City of Stars' and I don't know why, but my eyes be sweatin' HELLA every time.
Here comes Damien Chazelle again with the minimalistic shot, yet it is screaming so many emotions, feelings, what ifs? This scene is where Sebastian had just basically signed the relationship away to Keith, who he plays in the band with. The beautiful thing about this is that Mia and Sebastian know their relationship is going to change and they are hoping for the better. Mia will be working on her one-woman play and Sebastian will be on tour with his new band and will be playing new age jazz that he doesn't even like. Once again the color palette in this scene dives even more into what Mia and Sebastian are feeling. The red in the back is representing the ambition they both have for their dreams and for their relationship. It is also showing the love they have for each other and the sacrifices Mia has made by quitting her job at the coffee shop. However, it is also showing the danger that lies ahead and they don't even know. It's just GENIUS directing by Chazelle. Now, the green on the other hand is still showing the growth between the two of them. They are growing as individuals and as a couple, because they are taking the next step into their relationship. The lyrics in 'City of Stars' are stating how they have hope that they will be together after this difficult adjustment period. But, the negatives that are represented by green is the inexperience that they both have with a situation like this that they are in and throughout this scene towards the end you start to see the relationship decay a little and maybe a little envy from Mia because Sebastian is out there getting celebrity treatment while she is working her ass off to make sure her show is perfect.
The next scene that follows is just as important as the last one, because Mia goes to watch Sebastian perform. Now, I couldn't find a picture that had her in this scene, but just picture the same colors in this picture, but shining on Mia's face, because at the start of this scene she is so happy to see Sebastian doing great and looks to be enjoying himself. The color blue in a positive light here represents her loyalty and love for Sebastian, but it quickly takes a negative turn and as the blue is reflecting off her worried face you see the doubt and discouragement because she thinks maybe he is going to stop loving her and forget about her and as she thinks that the peak of the song hits and the lights reflecting off of her now is purple and it is showing the hurt in her face and sadness because she is now getting pushed to the back by all these girls, which just further represents the message Chazelle was going for in this scene.
Then it ends with a bright red light shining on Sebastian and based on my reading of his body language and facial expression it seems like he is kind of all over the place with his emotions and red represents disorder, anger, and ambition.
It is so relaxing for me to watch this movie because as I said before it is authentic and realistic. This will happen to all of us when we graduate, get a job, etc. 'La La Land' just does it on a bigger scale with an aspiring actress and an aspiring jazz pianist, but it's all the same. For example, if you have a significant other right now. If you get a job offer in California, but your partner got one in New York, what are you going to do? Follow your dream job even if that means your partner can't follow? Or are you going to decline the offer and go to New York with your partner? Or try long distance?
This movie makes the right decision for you. You should have the same dreams in a relationship that you had when you were single. If it's meant to be it is meant to be. Whether it is now or later or maybe it's not meant to be.
That's all for this week's lesson on Life Advice for Dummies with Luis.
Sadly, Mia and Sebastian have a big fight, because one or the other wouldn't settle. They break up, but then Mia gets this huge opportunity to film a movie in Paris. The audition scene is beautiful and Emma Stone killed it on all fronts.
Mia and Sebastian decide they will stay separated, but after they have achieved their dreams they will see where they lie.
Fast forward five years and we see this powerful woman walk into a coffee shop on Warner Brothers lot and everyone including the workers stop and gaze at her, because she is the number one lady, in Hollywood. She turns around and we see that it is Mia. Like I said in the beginning it will all come full-circle in the end. Damien Chazelle adding that little scene just brings so much hope and confidence to these people who are watching the movie and hoping they make it big someday in whatever it is they want to do, myself included.
The ending of this beautiful film will maybe have some of you surprised. I personally love the ending. As I stated before this movie is a dream and reality. Just like life is and though I want that sappy ending of Mia and Sebastian ending up together, I also love that they don’t. Yes, they are soulmates, but not the kind of soulmates that live happily ever after together. They live happily ever after, but separately. They pushed each other and it worked out, maybe not the way they intended it to, but they got the better ending. It’s a wake-up call to people around our age. The Hollywood movies in the 50s and even now have us saying “I want that kind of love”, but at what cost? The cost that one of the two had to give up a dream or a life they wanted? No, fuck that. I want this ending. I want both my soulmate and myself to follow our dreams that we had before we met. If that means we don’t end up together, then that’s life. Not one of us should have to settle because the other has to go somewhere else for their dream. Just like Mia and Sebastian said, “I’ll always love you” and that is what matters. If they were meant to be then they would find a way. Just because Mia and Sebastian kept running into each other by chance didn’t mean they would end up together. That’s life and behind it all, though it may not seem beautiful, it is beautiful.
Damien Chazelle wrote the third act perfectly.
The ending dream sequence with Mia and Sebastian has me curled up in the corner of my room crying because all of us have had a vision at one point that this is what their life would be like had everything worked out perfectly. That was Damien Chazelle saying to us this is the ending you expected. Here you go I'm still going to put it in here just so you know this is how it usually plays out. It is genius because the directing, editing, and score for this movie are so phenomenal and unorthodox that you just love how it goes against traditional filmmaking.
When Mia once again stumbles across Sebastian's jazz club without even knowing it—makes my eyes sweat profusely! The blue light shining on Mia’s face, when she is leaving Seb's, represents the truth, the nobility, and the spiritual purity between her and Sebastian. The purple in the back as she leaves speaks a thousand words with none being said as she and Sebastian exchange that last nod with each other. It represents the wisdom and clarity of mind they both have gained in the last five years since they have seen each other.
Overall, 'La La Land' is a cinematic masterpiece both from a technical standpoint and execution standpoint. Damien Chazelle is only 33 years old, so we will see much more from him, and I cannot wait. Everything he touches is gold and he gives it his all. Ryan Gosling is phenomenal, as always. However, Emma Stone stole the show by far. The film is incredible and enjoyable in every way. Objectively this movie is great and no one can say differently.
That is why I give 'La La Land' a 96/100.
Film Review Written By Luis Antonio Ruiz
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