*This review contains SPOILERS*
If you have not seen La La Land yet, I suggest you do not read this review as I will be discussing the plot as well as the ending. Thanks!
La La Land may be the first movie I’ve seen in a while that reeled me in instantly and kept me immersed in the story until the very end. With its 128-minute runtime, this film is one of the rare films that succeed on every level: character development, cinematography, great story, and everything in between. I’ve seen this film in theaters twice since it came out. Yes, I paid to see this movie again and trust me, it will not be the last. This film is personally my new all-time favorite movie and I’ll tell you why.
La La Land came to select theaters on December 9th, 2016 and was widely released on December 16th. Gosling and Stone star as two struggling artists, Seb and Mia, seeking to fulfill their dreams in the City of Dreams (or broken dreams) also known as Los Angeles, and after suffering quite a few failed meet cutes, fall in love, and are ultimately faced with the decision of choosing between following their dreams or following true love, proving to be a successful 14-Oscar-nomination masterpiece.
Writer-director Damien Chazelle does an amazing job of telling us the story of Seb and Mia’s dreams, heartache, and struggling adventure through his use of technicolored fantasies.
However, their heart wrenching love affair isn’t just that, as this film appeals to audiences of all ages, ranging from the classic Singin’ in the Rain feeling to it as well as the theme of whimsy and imagination for younger viewers that runs much deeper than a love story.
Gosling and Stone are truly the heart and soul of La La Land as their portrayal of Sebastian and Mia is what truly breathes life into this eccentric film.
Stone’s portrayal of Mia is intelligent, mysterious, and benevolent, yet fiercely ambitious in her own way. I have never seen this side of Stone in her previous roles as she has played several roles as the “sweet, clumsy dork” until now, where she gets the chance to show off her wide variety of emotional performances. Mia’s dream is to become a successful actress and is shown auditioning for multiple roles and being rejected multiple times which ultimately breaks her down after being rejected for the last time at her play. Mia’s most shining and vulnerable moment in La La Land, where she is auditioning for an upcoming movie that will be the spark in her career that she needs, is one of her most crowning moments in the film because of her relatable reactions and emotions really help the audience understand Mia’s struggles and actually root for her and hope she earns the role she’s been dreaming of.
On the same hand, Gosling’s portrayal of Seb is charming, adventurous, and down to earth, and like Mia, is fiercely ambitious which is exactly what draws he and Mia together. In the beginning of the film, Seb, is forced to play classic Christmas music in order to keep his job, rather than play what he wants, Jazz music. Seb’s dream is to open up a Jazz club that celebrates pure Jazz music, which twists into the breaking point of he and Mia’s relationship in the middle of the movie when he accepts an offer from his old friend, Keith (John Legend), to play piano in his band for money, that Mia considers to be the price of his soul. Gosling truly does a wonderful job of developing his character, showing the stages of Seb’s struggles and decisions. Seb’s best moment in the film is where he is telling Mia to chase her dreams, after she finished her big audition that would win her her debut role that would eventually rise her to fame. He puts his feelings and his pride to the side and truly becomes that last push that Mia needs and maybe, what he needed as well.
The cinematography for this film is phenomenal, whether it’s capturing a simple street scene or creating a pure, magical experience in the Planetarium. The editing, angles, and technicolor burst from the screen to make the film even more memorable, really creating and capturing the magic of Chazelle’s “follow your dreams” theme.
What I appreciate the most about La La Land is the music. Along with the cinematography capturing the magic of the theme, Justin Hurwitz really captures the magic with his creation of La La Land‘s jazzy and whimsical music. It’s not only catchy, but almost the whole soundtrack is telling you about Sebastian and Mia’s true emotions and intentions—if you really listen to it—which truly is the best part.
If I have any criticism for the movie, it’s that Gosling and Stone don’t exactly have the best voices I’ve ever heard. But this can easily be ignored if you’re not analyzing their voices down to the last note, which I doubt many people are able to do when they watch this movie.
Now let’s talk about the ending. The last 10 minutes of this film broke. My. Heart. I’ve honestly never felt so emotionally stunted at the end of a movie before.
5 years after Mia’s breakthrough audition, Mia is shown walking into the same café she used to work at and is given a coffee on the house, (like she did for another actress in the beginning of the movie) and when she walks out, she rides off on a golf cart—again, like the same actress did from the beginning—implying that she is now the successful actress that she aspired to be.
The film then takes us to Mia’s big, beautiful home, where she meets her husband (NOT SEB) and their young daughter. Mia and her husband then have to rush out of the house to an event, leaving their daughter with a babysitter. After sitting in traffic for a few minutes and Mia stating how she did not miss that part from her younger years (the traffic), she asks her husband if he wants to just exit the highway and grab some dinner. He then says yes and they pull away.
The next scene shows Mia and her husband walking down the street (after dinner, I assume) and her husband noticing a nightclub that he wants to check out so he and Mia walk in. When Mia and her husband get upstairs, she sees the name of the bar that stops her heart…“Seb’s”. which is the name she suggested to Seb to be the name of his Jazz club near the beginning of the movie.
The camera then takes us through the club, showing us everything that Seb passionately talked about, including his most prized possession, a stool that once belonged to Hoagy Carmichael which proves that this is indeed Seb’s dream Jazz club.
Mia and her husband then sit down in the middle of the club to listen to the musicians play when Seb then gets on stage and immediately the world seems to stop when Mia and Seb make eye contact. Seb then begins to play the beautiful, familiar melody that Mia heard him play in the beginning and was drawn to. Here’s where things get real.
La La Land takes us through the whole story of Mia and Seb’s relationship, but this time, showing how their lives would’ve been if the world were a perfect place and they had no obstacles to keep them apart. The whole fantasy sequence shows Mia and Seb meeting and immediately kissing as if they knew they were going to be together, ignoring Keith, a full audience at Mia’s play, Mia and Seb having a child and living happily ever after.
However, what I noticed about this sequence was though everything seems perfect, Mia’s dream comes true, but not Seb’s. The sequence shows Mia in Paris and celebrating her rise to fame with Seb right by her side instead of following his own dreams. This is what truly captured the realism that Chazelle was trying to portray.
Through the technicolored pictures, he is trying to display to the audience that in a city where dreams come true, there must also be sacrifice to make those dreams come true, and even then, not everything will be perfect.
At the end of the fantasy sequence, the film returns to Mia and Seb’s gaze at each other, showing that they imagined the same thing together. Mia then claps with the audience, gets up with her husband, and begins to walk out. However, before our screen goes dark, Mia turns around to look at Seb who is already looking at her and smiles and he smiles back. And then, Mia walks out for the final time.
This truly broke my heart at first because I didn’t see the lesson that Chazelle was teaching me, I wanted Seb to run to Mia and confess his ever-lasting love for her and how he’s always loved her and to marry him and live happily ever after with him like he would in a fantasy. But he didn’t do that, he just watched her go as one would do in real life, because this is real life, not a fun, lighthearted musical that we wish it was.
La La Land truly made me question my life and wonder why I’m not going out and making my dreams come true—In a good way. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we’re stuck in a rut when we do the same thing every day: wake up, go to school or work, come home, and do it all over again the next day and the next day and the next day. And this film is truly inspiring in a way that makes you want to jump off the couch and start doing what you love to do. But La La Land also keeps you grounded, knowing that following your dreams also comes with sacrifices and that you shouldn’t expect to land an Oscar-winning role or open up any clubs anytime soon. But it takes hard work and determination to make that possible.
Brilliant old school classic Hollywood kind of musical with a brilliant message and excellent portrayal of that message.
Thanks for reading.