In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It delivers flashy song and dance numbers that somehow manage to be fantastical and real at the same time.”
“This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!”
I’ve been very slack in writing this review. Generally, I write a review they day of, or maybe the day after, watching a movie. If it’s a new movie and still in theatres, I try to post the review within a week. I’m writing this more than three weeks after watching La La Land and by the time it’s posted, it’s a little over a month later. In that time, the movie nerds and sites I read have declared La La Land a masterpiece and Oscar front runner, before backlash saw it painted as an overrated piece of style of substance, before a backlash to the backlash had much of the public opinion coming back around to masterpiece and Oscar front runner.
Breaking the record for number of Golden Globes won by a single movie could be seen as a good thing or a bad one, depending on your opinion of the trashy celebrity jerk off that is the Golden Globes. For me, La La Land is a movie that I loved when I walked out of the cinema. It’s a movie I have recommended to anyone who’ll listen in the weeks since, and it’s a movie I’ve thought about every day since seeing it, and smiled whenever I do.
It’s present day Los Angeles, but the vibe is pure Golden Age Hollywood. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress whose only brushes with stardom come via the café she works at on the lot of a Hollywood studio. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who longs for a time long gone. When not lowering himself to play cheesy standards in a bad restaurant, he’s trying to find the money to start his own jazz club.
Mia and Sebastian meet coincidentally more than once and immediately butt heads. But their chemistry can’t be denied, and soon they’re living together, encouraging each other to follow their dreams. Sebastian is the first to get a leg up, when an old friend (John Legend as Keith) gives him a gig playing keyboards in his shitty, yet popular band.
Before La La Land, writer and director Damian Chazelle made Whiplash. While it was a festival and awards darling, even winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for JK Simmons, I didn’t like Whiplash much at the time, and it aggravates me even more in hindsight. At the time, I said the characters, “might care this much about music and being the best, but they never gave me a reason to care about them caring this much about music and being the best.” Despite my negative feelings towards that movie, I couldn’t deny that Chazelle knew how to tell a story and get great performances from his cast. Which was why Whiplash apathy an all, I was intrigued, and even a little excited to see La La Land.
And my intrigue was well and truly rewarded. With a bigger budget and A-list cast, Chazelle takes the promise of Whiplash and blows everything out in bigger, better and more impressive ways. It shows a romance movie relationship that also has believable ups, downs and conflict. It delivers flashy song and dance numbers that somehow manage to be fantastical and real at the same time. But best of all, it calls Sebastian on his jazz obsession bullshit. Because like I said in my Whiplash review, “can we all just agree that jazz is the worst? Even when played to perfection, it just sounds like a big mess”.