Beyond the Trailer: La La Land (2016)

La La Land Poster (2017)
In honour of Valentines being just around the corner, I decided to blog about the first romance movie I have seen for the year 2017.

The moment I saw the trailer, I knew this was something I couldn't miss as I am a fan of old Fred Astaire movies.  This movie didn't at all disappoint.   

For those unfamiliar with Fred Astaire, you can start by watching "The Band Wagon" or if you are an Audrey Hepburn fan, you can watch "Funny Face." While not an Astaire film, I also recommend Gene Kelly's "Singing in the Rain."

Writing this review will probably just parrot what a lot of people have already said about it, but I can't help but want to pursue it anyway to show my appreciation for the writing and work done.

Before going to the theatre, I basically already knew what to expect.  I knew there would be singing and random dancing  but with a story that made those old movies survive the test of time.

After watching it, it is probably safe to say that this is probably one of the best romance movies that I have seen in a very long while.  It was lighthearted at the right time but it also knew when to take itself seriously.


Story

Mia leaving after an unsuccessful audition.
The story is about an actress and a musician with big dreams but Hollywood has never been kind to dreamers ...

Mia, an actress working as a barista with both beauty and talent, faces every audition and determined to give her best efforts only to meet with disappointments from unfair and biased casting.  Her room mates wanted to cheer her up, so they talked her into going with them to a party.  Once there, it wasn't enough to changer her mood so she left.  Unfortunately, her car got towed so she ended up walking.  On her way home, she found herself in a restaurant where she meets our story's musician, Sebastian.

Sebastian is fired after not following
the Management's setlists.
Sebastian is a talented Jazz musician.  His dream was to start his own club inspired by original Jazz.  Unfortunately, he had been cheated by a man who had tricked him by making him believe he was buying a location that had strong ties with the Jazz he loved.  With no club and barely any money, he was making ends meet by playing piano in restaurants and gigs with no stable income and playing setlists chosen by the Management.

The restaurant he was working the night he met Mia was no different.  As it was the holidays, he was forced by the management to only play Christmas songs.  Unhappy that his talent was so unappreciated, he began improvising --- much to the disapproval of the management.  He was promptly fired.

Mia was drawn to Sebastian's music and had attempted to talk to him, but in rage Sebastian just ignored her and left.  The two met again later at another party.  This time, he was playing keyboards for the band performing at the party.  Wanting to get even with him for ignoring her the time at the restaurant, sh requested a song that he would dislike playing as a "serious" musician.

Mia and Sebastian watch a movie at the theatre.
They later managed to patch things up and began getting to know each other.  He then invited her to watch the movie, "Rebel without a Cause" believing that it would help her with a role she was auditioning for.  However, it was obvious that it was an excuse to go on a date with her.   She accepts,  she later discovers that she forgot that she already had a date with a guy that she was already dating.  She joined her boyfriend and his companions for a while but found herself not contented with the company she was with and left to join Sebastian at the theatre.  They ended the evening with a visit to the planetarium.

She learns of his dreams of starting his own club and he learns of her passion for acting.  She  also revealed another tidbit.  Mia wasn't fond of Jazz.

Sebastian introduces Mia to the Jazz he is passionate about. 
This horrified Sebastian, so he took her to  a place he knew that played the Jazz he loved and passionately told her what made the genre so wonderful.  It didn't take long for them to fall in love and they later began living together.  While their love blossomed, she was still failing auditions and he was still not able to find stead income.

One day, Sebastian overhears Mia talking to her mother as she assured her that he was working towards his dream.  This made Sebastian guilty of his circumstances and accepted an offer from his acquaintance to join his band, The Messengers.  Despite hating the Jazz and pop hybrid in the band's music, he decided to bear with it as it gave him the stability he needed.  Around this time, Mia was losing hope that she would ever become an actress.  Sebastian suggested that she created her own play which she attempted to do so.

Sebastian playing piano for the Messengers.
Meanwhile, Sebastian was getting busier and busier with his band and they were able to spend less and less time with one another.  That wasn't all that changed.  Mia watched one of the band's concerts and she knew immediately that it wasn't the kind of music Sebastian wanted to play.  She questioned him about it and it triggered an argument.  However, they still wanted their relationship to work.

They day Mia was to present her play,  Sebastian had forgotten about their band's photoshoot and missed her performance.  This broke her heart.  Not only did her boyfriend not come to support her, she had to deal with the terrible criticism on her own.  When he did finally arrive, she had finally had enough.  She left that night and returned to her home in Nevada,

Sebastian goes to Mia's home in Nevada.
Not long after, Sebastian received a call from a casting director looking for Mia.  She had seen Mia's solo play and wanted to offer her a part.  Sebastian went all the way to Nevada to tell Mia the good news.  Unfortunately, Mia had still been hurting and wasn't optimistic of winning the part. Sebastian told her that he would come back to pick her up and she didn't want to go he would leave without her before driving away.

He returned the next morning, not finding her on the porch he was about to drive away.  She appeared a few seconds later ---- with coffee.

Mia's audition
Once in the casting, her task was to tell a story just by herself --- not unlike what she did in her play.  She auditioned playing the part of her aunt who inspired her to become an actress. When it was over,  Sebastian was feeling optimistic for her while Mia still had her doubts.  He told her to jump at the opportunity when it came even if it meant leaving each other.  He would be touring with his band and she would be making a movie in Paris.  They knew that they would always love each other but were uncertain of their futures.

The movie skips to five years.  It all comes full circle as we find Mia now buying coffee from her old workplace from an aspiring actress and was now a successful actress herself.  She was now married to a different man and had a child.  One night, she and her husband were looking for a place to eat and came across Jazz music.  They went inside and saw that the logo she made for Sebastian a long time ago on the wall.

Mia and Sebastian's dream sequences of their "What ifs"
Sebastian also finally had his bar.  It wasn't in the location he had dreamed but it was packed and doing very well.  While about to perform, he saw Mia in the crowd and played the song he played when they first met.  The began to show a sort of dream sequence of "what ifs" and how they would have wanted their lives to go so they could stay together.

What if he had been able to buy his club afterall? What if he didn't have to go on tour? What if her play had been a success? What if he had been able to go to Paris with her?

In the end, Mia and her husband left but not without Mia and Sebastian one last look at each other.  They had their happy endings despite not being able to find it with each other.  While Sebastian probably questions what he had to do to get it as he not only had to give her up, he had to sell out the Jazz he loved.  It wasn't the perfect ending but it was the best ending they could have hoped for ...  

Characters


Mia Dolan played by Emma Stone, is a lovely aspiring actress from Nevada.  She had been in Hollywood since she was barely out of high school but she was still looking for her big break.  I like Mia's character, as she does give me the same sort of vibe as old actresses like Ginger Rogers or Leslie Caron.

Before I watched the movie,  I wasn't sure at all if she could pull it off.  I was confident she was a great actress as I have seen what she can d in Easy A and the Amazing Spiderman movies.

Sebastian Wilder played by Ryan Gosling.  I don't watch a lot of his movies.  I can only recall ever watching one, which was "The Notebook" and I remember him doing very well.  As I am unfamilar with him in general, I wasn't sure what to expect from him in the movie.

I was pleasantly surprised as he was definitely convincing.  He was cute and after watching it made me wonder if he had any previous experience as a musician since he portrayed a man with a strong passion for music very well.

I actually liked watching Sebastian's story and struggles a bit more than Mia's as his is a struggle that really had no compromise.  

Lastly, John Legend as Keith.  He is not here because I am a fan of his or anything of the like.  I have personally simply heard a couple of his songs in passing.

While not a main character, his character played a big part for me in the story as he was responsible for choices and events in Sebastian's life.  While not necessarily an evil villain, I can understand why others might see him as such.

Keith says, "You say you want to save jazz, but how are you going to save jazz is no one’s listening?"  That line is probably the line that made the biggest impact on me in the whole movie.  It is probably why I placed him on this list.

While Sebastian was a dreamer and a musician, Keith was a musician but a realist as well.  He believed that success in the modern world wouldn't come by clinging to the past.

Music and Dance Numbers


As there are a lot of songs and dance numbers in the movie, I will only talk about the ones that stood out or what I consider my favorites.

Another Day in the Sun, song and dance 
The first number I will talk about is the first of the movie.  It is called, Another Day in the Sun and it is performed by Random People Stuck in Traffic.

While the randomness of this took me by surprise, I do enjoy the song a lot.  It is an optimistic song about what people wish and dream about in the City where dreams come true.

It was a good number to set up the tone of the movie.  Expect singing, dancing and dreamers ...

A Lovely Night, dance number. 
As this is practically on the movie's poster, it would be impossible for me not to talk about "A Lovely Night."  It is a dance number without the singing

It was a number to show their growing attraction for each other. For me, this reminds me of a dance number by Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse which also took place in a park from The Band Wagon which still continues to be one of my favorite numbers.

City of Stars, solo number
Another favorite of mine is the City of Stars performed by Ryan Gosling. This is a surprise for me since I didn't even know this actor can sing.  After nightmares from Mama Mia where they had the handsome Pierce Brosnan to sing.  I was a bit afraid that he had landed the part because of his pretty face.

This song feels very nostalgic.  It has a distant memory vibe and a style similar to the genre is was based from.

The Epilogue
The last song I will talk about --- only because if I add all of my favorites it would be much too long --- The Epilogue.  This is basically a retelling of the whole movie of what their lives would have been like if the world was the perfect world for dreamers.  This was all being done through dance though.


Overall

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and John Legend
I know this might be too soon as the year has just started but I already think that this is one of the best films I watched this year.  It wasn't perfect but then again neither were the movies it was inspired by.  I actually like the fact that I got everything I wanted see without being necessarily too predictable story-wise which is actually a growing problem with romance movies in general. .

I have to admit that though I didn't necessarily learn anything new, I still watched a really good story.  I hope we have more movies like these in the future.  At the same time,  maybe what makes this type of movies good is the fact that we rarely see anything like it anymore.

Musicals might be considered outdated by this generation, but once in a while something that feels like from the age of where the most romantic movies that ever came from Hollywood came from is just what we need ...




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