La La Land urges you to live your dream no matter how difficult this world makes it for you to achieve that dream. It seduces you to spit out all that has been raging inside you and to put it on display for the whole world. Even if you have to choose your dream over love, go ahead and do it. And to say it all in a swirling dream-like song and dance sequences is what makes La La Land a rare cinematic achievement (Spoilers ahead).
The film sets out as a breezy romance between two dreamers. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) wants to play pure jazz. Mia (Emma Stone) wants to be an actor. They both struggle to remain true to their beliefs. They pay their bills while doing soul-killing jobs in a soul-crushing city.
Club owners don’t want novelty from Sebastian. They simply want him to play simple jingles and entertain the patrons. Sebastian understands that jazz is dying and nobody is interested in listening to jazz music. Still, his heart aches to create a piece of pure jazz magic. There is a scene where he playing piano in a club and tries his best to do what he is paid to do. It becomes difficult for him after some time to do so. He easily slips into his own world where he simply transforms into an artiste busy creating something beautiful.
Mia works at a coffee shop. A series of audition rejections doesn’t stop her from swinging and swirling with her girlfriends and slide back into reality again. Mia, after being rejected multiple times, writes her own play. Only a handful of people turn up to watch it. All those disappointments, frustrations, battles of everyday life anchor this dream-like film to reality.
It’s Damien Chazelle’s brilliant direction that makes us see the lonely battle of both the artistes. And it’s pure cinematic joy. Instead of watching a clash of desire and practicality, we see the dazzling, wonderland of dreamers. There are scenes where even in their deep melancholy, they radiate a sense of joy.
When Seb plays the piano for himself, we only watch him, everything in the background dilutes to mere darkness. The sad ballad, The Fools Who Dream, which Mia sings while auditioning for a role is such a beauty.
Emma Stone’s luminous performance transports us into a melancholic beautiful world where you don’t give in to life’s battles. The lyrics — “Here’s to the ones who dream, Foolish as they may seem. Here’s to the heart that aches, here’s to the mess that we make” — keep ringing in your ears.
The film owes a lot to Justin Hurwitz’s romantic jazz music. In ‘A Lovely Night,’ Emma Stone’s yellow dress against Los Angles’ midnight blue sky is every woman’s dream. The whole song is shot in one long take. Ryan and Emma, dancing against a silhouette of a blue valley, will lift your spirits. Another melancholy number ‘City of Stars, Are you Shining for Me’ is shot on a bridge with a deep pinkish sky forming the backdrop.
The most heart-wrenching number, Mia and Sebastian’s theme, keeps repeating in the tense, romantic and flirtatious moments between Ryan and Emma. Both Mia and Seb find a companion in each other and we see them swimming, floating, swirling and twirling from one dance number to another. There is never a dull moment in their journey from dating each other casually to ending up dreaming about their life together.
Will they have each other while realising their destinies? Or will they part their ways to achieve their dreams individually? The final moments of the film are the most emotional and evocative ones that I have seen in a long time. It is in final moments where Chazelle’s film stops being just a musical and becomes a brilliant piece of cinema. The end is filled with such rare beauty that it will not be an exaggeration to say that it might take years before we such passionate scenes on screen again.
The last glance between Ryan and Emma is filled with pure passion and a self-assured happiness. You could feel the tight-rope tension between love and dreams in the final moments of the film.Their final meeting inside a dark jazz club evokes so many emotions at the same time.
La La Land restores your faith in the magic of movies. This is why we see movies to get transported to a different world. Above all, La La Land tells you a story and that too a sad one.
As Richard Yates wrote in his book The Revolutionary Road, “If you wanted to do something absolutely honest, something true, it always turned out to be a thing that had to be done alone.” That’s the point this film is trying to make here. The journey to your dream is often lonely. But you don’t forget a person with whom you shared these dreams and fell in love along the way. What if you meet them again? Will you regret your decision? Will you be happy for their success?