City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars
There's so much that I can't see
If ever there was a contemporary movie that could charm its way into the hearts of classic film fans it's La La Land (2016).
Based on an original screenplay by filmmaker Damien Chazelle, La La Land tells the love story of two struggling artists trying to make it in Hollywood. The lovebirds, actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), get off to a rocky start but as they discover their common ground sparks fly. Their passion for their individual crafts and their support for each other's dreams brings them together but also drives them apart. It's a love story where love for the art and love for each other are in conflict. There are song and dance numbers throughout the film, lots of amazing costumes, on-location shooting and finery that make this film a visual spectacle to savor. The most striking part of this film is the alternate ending within the ending which caps off this marvelous film.
Musicals require us to suspend our disbelief that everyday people can break out into song and dance. Classic film fans (and theatre goers) embrace this genre but even those who don't will find much to enjoy in this film. The song and dance numbers are expertly choreographed and the theme song City of Stars is a catchy tune. I can't speak to Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's singing skills but as a former dancer I didn't think they necessarily had the chops to pull off the dance moves. There weren't many of those for them and the signature song and dance number that graces the advertising for the film was decent. In the early days of Hollywood, triple threats, actors and actresses who could act, sing and dance, were a lot more common than they are today.
La La Land is influenced by many classic movies. In one scene, Gosling mimics Gene Kelly's signature Singin' in the Rain move where he climbs a lamp post. Stone's Mia wanted to become an actress when she was exposed to films such as Notorious (1946) and Bringing Up Baby (1938) as a child. Ingrid Bergman is practically an extra in the film. Mia's bedroom is adorned with a gigantic poster of her, she graces a Hollywood Hills billboard and Mia shows Sebastian a spot on the Warner Bros. lot where Casablanca (1942) was filmed. Mia and Sebastian have their first real date at the Rialto Theatre to see Rebel Without a Cause (1955). They visit the Griffiths Observatory shortly afterwards for one of the more ethereal musical numbers. The on-location shooting gives the movie a real sense of place. Mia works on the Warner Bros. lot and lives in the Hollywood, both places that Carlos and I have come to know after traveling to the area for the four previous TCM Classic Film Festivals.
La La Land was filmed in Cinemascope on 35mm. I watched a digital presentation of it and it was a bit fuzzy especially during the group dance numbers. If you have an opportunity to watch this one in 35mm do it!
When I left the theater after the film was over I was in a state of mild euphoria. La La Land had it all: good music, a great story with excellent character development, classic film references galore, stunning visuals all wrapped up in a beautiful package. There was very little I didn't like about the film. It's not perfect but there is much to enjoy.
La La Land is a fine film worthy of even the pickiest classic film fan.