by: Caroline Cox
The opening scene of La La Land immediately places the audience in the stereotypical Los Angeles scene- a crowded freeway. Then within the opening lines of the first song, another stereotype is revealed, the idea that everyone in LA strives to be in the entertainment industry.
The first scene, which is a musical number, starts by finding a tune within the various songs playing on the radio within the freeway. This number is shot in one long take and, while it does not feature the two leads, sets the tone of this musical. This scene is one of my favorite, mainly because of the complexity of it. A what appears to be one long take filled with impressive cherography around cars invites you to dance along. As mentioned before, this scene sets the tone of the movie, and not just in the musical sense. In the beginning, the blending of the radios emphasizes how music plays an important role in the life of Ryan Gosling’s character, Sebastian, and foreshadows the blending of music that will occur when Sebastian decides to work in a jazz band that has a pop twist. The lyrics set up the story of Emma Stone’s character, Mia, by conveying the strive to make it as an actress in LA. This complex number brings the audience into the storyline, and with its catchy tune, the viewer can begin to enjoy this modern day musical.
The film follows Mia and Sebastian, who after a few run-ins decide become romantically involved. However, their relationship does begin rocky and allows for comedic moments and even a comedic musical number. The first musical number between both characters, involves each describing how they would never become romantically involved. This duet involves tap-dance, a beautiful view of Los Angeles, and, again, long cinematography shots. I, again, love this number because of the gorgeous sun-set backdrop that provides a purple glow.
Mia and Sebastian’s relationship is tested as they both try to pursue their own career goals. Throughout the film Gosling and Stone continue to have incredible on screen chemistry, which is no surprise since this is their third film together (their first was the 2011 comedy-drama Crazy, Stupid, Love and their second was the 2013 thriller Gangster Squad). The viewer is able to love both and their passion while understanding the difficulties of their relationship. The end montage scene is another one of my favorites, and it reinforces that this is a musical while reminding the viewer of the best parts of the movie.
I can’t help but love this movie. While the story is simple, the musical numbers, montages scenes, and beautiful, vibrant colors make the movie feel fresh and different. The movie sticks to feeling like a classic musical, yet seeing an iPhone here and there brings the story back to present day. A modern day musical is what writer and director Damien Chazelle hoped to accomplish; and without a doubt, La La Land achieves this.
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