I love musicals. From the Roger and Hammerstein classics to the more modern carnations, musicals have always held a special place in my heart. One particular musical I want to focus on for today’s post is the 2016 film La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring the dynamic duo of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
La La Land was criticized upon it’s initial release by people who did not understand the film, who did not understand the hype. Though set in the twenty-first century, La La Land tells a timeless story that would have greatly appealed to moviegoers from the mid twenty-century. With references to romantic classics like Casablanca, La La Land tells the story of two artists, Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Gosling), a former jazz club owner looking for redemption. They meet on faithful night after Sebastian’s failed gig, but things don’t heat up in their romance until they meet at a party days later where sparks fly for the first time. The two dreamers soon realize that they are in love and they spend every moment together, getting to know each other through some inspired musical numbers. Both Mia and Sebastian want what’s best for the other person and as their careers take them in different directions, they soon realize that may need to forge ahead without the other person.
La La Land doesn’t break any new ground. We’ve seen this star-crossed love story before, but the chemistry between Stone and Gosling and the inspired direction by Chazelle keeps the narrative feeling fresh. In a movie that is about music and following your dreams, it is the script that truly stands out. The final scene in the film, which is a musical montage of what ifs and regrets, is truly one of the best–and most heartbreaking–ending to a film I have seen in years.
I cannot talk about La La Land without mentioning the music. While neither Gosling nor Stone have bombastic, rafter shaking voices, they manage to convey so much emotion and character development in their singing. In fact, I will argue that Stone won the Best Actress Oscar for the “Audition” scene alone. Standouts include “City of Stars,” “A Lovely Night,” and, of course, “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme.”
La La Land was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won six, including Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Song. The film famously lost Best Picture thanks to one of the biggest snafus in Oscar history, but it has managed to touch the hearts of millions of movie-goers five years later. I definitely recommend that you check out this movie.