La La Land was a term well known to my generation, having emerged out of Los Angeles, the city of stars in the period between the two world wars of the twentieth century. It was all about embracing the glamour that was Hollywood during the hey-day of musicals on screen.
My four sisters used the phrase often both before and again after the war. They had all been born post WWII and often in La La Land, as they sang and tap-danced on the linoleum floor of the Federation Flat where our family lived during the late 40’s and early 50’s.
It was ideas of La La Land and Hollywood where dreams could come true that helped keep them going through wartime; reporting the news of the world and making inspiring movies that helped them deal with life at that time.
Being in La La Land was about escaping the rigours of everyday life when rationing was still a reality and money for extras a dream someway off in the future.
The movie draws on both musical theatre and movie history to tell a thought provoking story in its own language about two ordinary people chasing their dreams to be extraordinary.
La La Land has already received seven Golden Globe nominations, is already the winner of eight Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Director, Best Score and Best Song and it won Best Film recently at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
It is the Winner of the National Board of Review Top Ten Films of the Year La La Land has won two Screen Actors Guilds Awards for its stars Ryan Gosling as Sebastian a struggling jazz musician and Emma Stone as Mia an aspiring actress.
The sparks between Gosling and Stone illuminate the screen like lightening bolts, and it’s hard to believe these two people aren’t together in real life.
Mia is a Barista in a coffee shop on a film lot, hoping to keep the wolf from her door and to pay her bills while she goes for audition after audition with no success. She flats with three friends who support her dreams.
Sebastian plays off and on in someone else’s night club while dreaming of having one of his own.
He considers himself a serious musician and wants to call the shots. But in his world of reality he also needs aa permanent job, one that will help him pay his way as he pursues his passion.
Re-imagining the classic Hollywood musical was a challenge for Director Writer Damien Chazelle.
He displays both joy and melancholy in his story as he uses his movie stars I would suggest, to mirror his own dreams.
Starting in cinemas in Australia on Boxing Day, I felt fortunate taking in a preview – my feet haven’t stopped tapping since.
It also left me in thinking about how times and attitudes have changed during my seven decades.
La La Land is the dream.
It’s a balancing act between conflict and compromise, life and art, dreams and reality.
It is also very very exciting as Chazelle uses song and dance to express his passion.
Don’t read any more if you don’t like Spoilers.
Sebastian and Mia meet for the first time in a traffic jam on a freeway, which is the opening sequence of the movie.
All the people, frustrated at being held up, get out of their cars.
They begin to sing and dance – well as you would in an old Hollywood musical.
Mia and Sebastian then keep bumping into each other and as their friendship blossoms so does romance between them until finally they decide to live together.
Like an old fashioned on screen couple, they combine two qualities. On one hand they ooze all that Hollywood 30’s glamour style – both timeless and imaginative.
On the other hand they are both contemporarily relevant, spontaneous, dazzling and electric in a modern way, as both individuals and as a couple.
Herein lies the problem because for each to follow their heart and to succeed on their own terms means that there will be many times when they just cannot be there for each other.
“How are you going to be a revolutionary if are such a traditionalist, holding onto the past, when jazz is about the future” asks Sebastian’s old school mate Keith (John Legend), who is about to launch his own band. He needs a keyboard player and Sebastian, lured by the large $ offering, just can’t say no
That means he’s going to be on tour mostly all of the time and unable to be there for Mia on the night she first presents a one woman play she has written with his encouragement, as she is tired of waiting for that first ‘lucky break’.
She expects Sebastian to be in the very small disappointing audience when the lights come up, but he’s not. His own contract with the band he’s playing with has meant he has to be somewhere else and even though he races there as soon as he can, he’s just too late.
Mia feels betrayed and disillusioned as their smooth flowing relationship to this point had been built on trust and being there for each other. Their life together will now in her assessment, be more or less redundant, and in a martyr’s mood she says goodbye and leaves to go back home to her parents, giving up her dream.
Then there is a phone call at the flat where they have lived together and he’s there to take it. She has an audition for a big movie break as a producer had been in the audience of her first night.
The movie is to be shot in Paris and so Sebastian comes to her aid to make sure she will be there and to gain her lucky break on the way to fame and fortune and a new life.
The musical score by Justin Hurwitz is at the heart of this very stylish movie, sometimes playful, sometimes melancholy, it is very special; beautiful music. The theme song City of Stars is sure to become a ‘classic’, one for lovers.
I found it interesting to discover all the music had been recorded in the old fashioned manner. The choir, the orchestra and soloists got together on the same sound stage floor, where they once recorded the music for such iconic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain.
They took so long to prepare for, and to make this movie and it shows.
Ryan Gosling impressively learned to play the piano, just so that his takes were real, playing and practicing some songs four hours a day for three months. He and Emma Stone both learned to dance for the movie too. No wonder it’s making its presence felt.
Who won’t want to live in La La Land after seeing this wonderfully pleasing evocation of style and grace.
Gorgeous costumes, singing, dancing and special effects, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and the delightful La La Land starts Boxing Day in Australia and is sure to create dazzling stars in many young eyes.
It should also inspire hope, which seems to have become the catch cry of the season and 2017, in a world seemingly in disarray.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
Fred Berger, p.g.a.
Jordan Horowitz, p.g.a.
Marc Platt, p.g.a
MUSIC AND SCORE BY
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
Watch the Trailer