I’ve never been a fan of musicals, “West Side Story,” “Hamilton,” you name it. I’ve always found it odd for movies to include songs between scenes since it seemed so forced and not fluid with the storyline. But when I watched ‘La La Land’ for the first time I could immediately tell that it was different. What I thought was a cliche Hollywood cliche love story turned out to be much more complex and beautiful than what you think at first glance.
( ** I will be spoiling the plot!! ** )
The name of the film itself gives a big hint about the movie itself, as it takes place in Los Angeles, California. It may seem simple, but its name is also a jab at Hollywood, as Hollywood is portrayed as a magical place where all of your dreams can come true if you try. But the harsh reality is that not many are lucky and it’s really a hit or miss for finding success.
The main characters, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), are two people chasing their dreams in L.A. and fall in love along the way. Their dream chasing goes as expected. Mia is an aspiring actress, but doesn’t have good experiences during auditions and can’t seem to get a callback for a role. Sebastian is a struggling musician with dreams of opening up his own jazz club.
What I find special about this film is the realism of the plot. Most movie cliches make it seem that success comes with little to no consequences, as characters always end up happy at the end of the film. This, or the film ends with a major depressive episode where there is a random major character death or something which just drives the end of a film to a depressing end. Instead, the film chooses a more unexpected ending, where the two characters don’t end up together, but are still able to achieve their dreams.
With one or the other, neither Mia or Sebastian would be able to achieve their goals at the end of the film. There are many tense moments throughout the film where the two of them force one another to follow their dreams even when they are on the verge of giving up on themselves. This is what makes the ending so sad. Although they see one another at the height of their careers, and having gotten everything they wanted, it cost their love since they wanted such different things.
Now the score deserves its own paragraph since the music in the film itself tells a lot of the story on its own. The very song in the film “Another Day of Sun”, which actually opens the film, tells the entire story in its lyrics. An unsuspecting viewer (me watching it for the first time) doesn’t pay as close attention to it. Lyrics like “without a nickel to my name hopped a bus, here I came” and “he’ll see my face and think of how he used to know me” foreshadow the entire plot of the movie without viewers even knowing it, which I found very clever. They also consistently recycle the main song of the movie “Mia and Sebastian’s theme.” The same notes are used to express emotions of happiness, sorrow, and regret which makes the song resonate with the viewer. In general, the score is incredible as it is versatile and fits into many elements of the film.
To anyone who is apprehensive about musicals (just like I was) this movie is definitely worth a shot. Although it doesn’t have the happiest ending, I’d say that it’s far from a Hollywood cliche.