Hollywood has long given moviegoers a respite from daily life. In today’s age of carefully crafted realism and cynicism in film, it’s often easy to long for the proverbial “old Hollywood,” with its lush storytelling and sparkling visuals, lamenting that “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
Well turns out, they do.
“La La Land” has handily swept up seven Golden Globe awards and manages to unironically appropriate the visual shorthand of 1960’s Hollywood. Head scarves, creased slacks, broad landscape shots are smoothly inserted over a modern-day musical about two struggling artists: Mia (played by wide-eyed Emma Stone) and Sebastian (played by rakish yet emotionally-nuanced Ryan Gosling).
The film, through gritty dialogue and catchy musical numbers, explores Mia and Sebastian’s artistic journeys, giving glances of their whirlwind romance through brisk montages. While the dialogue and songs draw the narrative forward, the visuals keep all eyes glued to the screen. Every scene is thoughtfully lit, each frame reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting.
The costumes were skillfully chosen; each piece of clothing could conceivably fit in to both “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Me Before You.”
“La La Land”’s visual magic doesn’t stop at lighting and costuming. Stunning colors (found in Mia’s emerald dress, the LA skyline at twilight and the kaleidoscope of a final sequence that looks like a scene out of “Wizard of Oz”) are abound in this film.
Though “La La Land” has garnered praise on nearly every front, it is imperfect. Sebastian, a stellar jazz pianist, has a dream that he will stop jazz from “dying out.” However, as he explains in the film, jazz was born in New Orleans, a blend of African and European styles. Considering this fact, it would have made more sense to place an African-American lead in the role of Sebastian (or give the pianist another life goal).
In addition, it could be difficult for die-hard dancers or musical theater fans to get past Stone’s and Gosling’s moderately lackluster performances. They’re no Ginger and Fred, and that shows. Their authenticity is heartwarming, but may be grating for some.
At its core, “La La Land” is a tribute to dynamic artists and their glittering dreams, to their failures and to their triumphs, as well as a call to the next generation of artists to keep chasing their own dreams. As Mia sings in one of the final songs, “Here’s to the fools who dream.”
UF students are able to watch “La La Land” at Gator Nights on Feb. 10 in the Reitz Union Auditorium. Admission is free with Gator 1 ID. Students are allowed to bring one guest. There will be two showings, one at 7 p.m. and another at 9:30 pm.
Photo courtesy The New Yorker