People love what other people are passionate about.
In a time of change, hopelessness and despair, Hollywood seems to snuggle up in it’s own nostalgia. Over the stretch of one year La La Land is the third movie (to my knowledge) which is based upon Hollywood nostalgia, following Hail, Caesar! by the Cohen brothers and Café Society by Woody Allen.
This navel-gazing could become tedious to watch very fast, wouldn’t it be for the craftsmanship experienced filmmakers like the Cohens, Allen or in this case Damien Chazelle put into their projects. Although i often felt the itch of to much praise of Hollywoods dreamfactory while watching La La Land, I very much enjoyed this movie.
Ryan Gosling is the obvious choice for this kind of movie. He is the definition of handsome. I really liked his attitude, his nonchalant elegance and his garderobe but beyond that he had not a memorable performance. I could not judge his dancing skills, but i really enjoyed seeing him dance.
Emma Stone is the one, who shines in this movie. Her mimic ability really comes to use. I often see actors and actresses, who neither use nor can move their face, but she knows how to use hers for acting. That is real good crafts(wo)manship! With this performance she acted herself into my Top 3 actresses list (together with Kristen Stewart and Mary Elisabeth Winstead)
I also was more sympathetic with her story arc than Sebastian’s. The story itself is simple: Both want to achieve their dreams, but are somehow stuck in their current situation. They meet each other several times and eventually fall in love. Ultimately they have to decide if they want to settle for less but stay together or separate and pursue their initial dreams.
It was not Sebastians dream of opening a club that was the focus of the movie, but Mia’s pursuit to create something, writing a show on her own and perform it. It doesn’t seem like much, but i give the movie credit for putting Mia’s storyline before Sebastian’s. If you think about it, the plot had similarities to Café Society, but there we saw it from the viewpoint of Jesse Eisenberg’s character. Here they hold a good balance of both POVs.
Worship vs. Value
Sebastian on the other hand had some interesting lines. It seems Damien Chazelle put his thoughts into Sebastian’s mouth while telling Mia’s story.
I most remember this quote:
„They worship everything and value nothing.“
For me it’s a reflection on modern fandom. A lot of people worship some movies, TV series or celebrities. Some worshipping is coupled with overt nostalgia. But they often don’t value it. For example: Some people worship the original Ghostbusters movie, but they hated the recent Ghostbusters movie (before seeing any part of it). If they would value it, they would’ve given the movie a honest chance. I think this religious tendencies vs. knowing that something is worth something (e.g. valuing) is the defining struggle for modern pop culture. Focusing this on Los Angeles and Hollywood I interpret the movie the way, that they worship movies, the film culture and heritage Hollywood has, but they don’t value it because they allow the people, who are part of this culture, the get chewed up in it. Sebastian’s quote also reflects in his own thinking. He worships Jazz, but unlike Keith, he doesn’t value it. Keith wants to develop Jazz, so it can survive. Sebastian wants to uphold the idealistic image of the music he has. Again we are at the core of worshipping, surrendering to a religious idol. This is one of the core messages of La La Land.
Yep, that’s music
I do not know enough about music in general or Jazz and Musicals in specific to give an informed opinion about the soundtrack. But i liked it.
I watched a couple of Musicals before, so I am not unsympathetic to this kind of music in general. It has a very specific ring to it, that some people may reject, but that is just a matter of taste. More than the musical parts, I liked the jazz bits. Again i can not judge, but I can value the interesting art that is jazz. Same with the dancing. To watch ridiculously handsome people move elegantly is so aesthetically pleasing, that I could not imagine how I could have not enjoyed it.
My biggest problems with this movie or maybe is the lack of protagonists of color. It is a movie about Jazz, goddammit! And it manages to give exactly one black actor a major role? This pivoted in the scene where Sebastians is talking to Mia about the history of Jazz. The movie ignores completely that Jazz is a big part of Afroamerican heritage. That Afroamerican had to establish this kind of music, while white people looked down on them. And now, in a movie, which is in part about Jazz, they nothing more than background or supporting actors. This is not only a problem of La La Land but also of Whiplash. What stopped Chazelle from enlisting two black actors as protagonists? Do female, black actresses don’t have the same struggle as white actresses? Or black jazz pianists/club owners?
So, while La La Land is a great, very entertaining and uplifting movie, the protagonists tell a story that maybe isn’t theirs to tell.