Movie Review: La La Land (December 2016)

A reflection and a deeper look into what made this a great movie to watch.

La La Land (December 2016)

Directed by Damien Chazelle




This modern take of the dazzling classic musicals of Hollywood is about a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are two “dreamers” in Los Angeles, who are both struggling to do what they love. As the film progresses, they have to choose between their love for each other or finding success in their dreams.


(includes spoilers)

There were many factors that contributed to the doubts of La La Land becoming a successful movie and a remarkable movie-watching experience. Musicals are basically dead now because of the old Hollywood classics that were so gritty and bold. Nowadays, it’s hard for film-makers to incorporate music and dance in ways that still feel realistic. However, writer-director Damien Chazelle’s use of cinematic elements and his transitions from a spontaneous dance number back into reality was so well done that the film was everything but unsuccessful.                                                 


In the movie, Sebastian’s character tries to revive the world of jazz, much like Damien Chazelle tries to do with musicals. All of the vibrant, jazzy music written by Justin Hurwitz plays a huge role in this film, bringing something fresh and original to the big screen. Hurwitz makes it a point to use major and minor chords in most of the soundtrack to show uplifting and heartbreaking themes that express the bittersweet feelings of the movie. “The music felt like a character,” said Oxnard High School junior Bryan Sanchez.


The lyrics to the song performed in the opening scene, “Another Day of Sun” immediately gave the audience subtle hints and pretty much foreshadowed the whole movie. However, the spontaneous breaking out into dance distracts them from realizing this. “It spoils the movie […] but the audience doesn’t know that in their first viewing. Also, it’s catchy and nice to sing along to,” said Sanchez.


Overlooking a beautiful view of Hollywood as the sun goes down is where Seb and Mia nailed their first duet called “A Lovely Night.” This enchanted and flirtatious dance scene of the two characters denying their attraction towards each other was inspired by the beloved musical, Singin’ in the Rain.


In the opening scene, Chazelle transforms typical Los Angeles traffic into a big musical number. Some may see modern-day LA as an unpleasant urban area, but Chazelle displayed it as exactly the opposite, a “City of Stars” if you will. Throughout the film, LA was a technicolor world made out of music, and it gave many of the scenes a timeless charm.   


A simple scene in La La Land where Sebastian and Mia have a conversation in a jazz club holds one of the film’s most important lines. “It’s conflict and it’s compromise…,” said Seb as he tried to convince Mia of the beauty of jazz.


Although Sebastian’s unpleasant actions launched their relationship off to a not-so-friendly start, he becomes an important piece in Mia’s life. Just when Mia began to think she wasn’t good enough to reach her dreams, Seb restored some confidence in herself which was instrumental for her success. Mia had a conflict, Seb was willing to compromise. In a way, that was the beginning of Seb fulfilling his dream of reviving jazz.


Mia may have been “foolish” to choose her dream of becoming an actress over her undeniable love for Sebastian. But this is a story about staying true to your dreams and continuing to chase after them as if each day is “another day of sun.”


It is safe to say that this film was a well done tribute to past musicals and perhaps even an inspiration for future films. From the recent success of Broadway’s hit new musical, Hamilton, to the upcoming musical being done by Oxnard High School’s very own drama club, it is quite possible that musicals are on the rise.