La La Land

La La Land ★★★★★

The second time, it runs like a dream. It's so smooth and carefully crafted, like a game of constant echoes, echoes of echoes. The music calls back to itself, just like the the characters: as the relationship between Seb and Mia progresses they begin live within each other, taking on mannerisms and understanding each other's passions and what they need to feel fulfilled.

There are so many perfect scenes: I think of the opening, before the song, when you see each person alone in their car, listening to their own music. The diversity of the music and the way each person interacts with it feels symptomatic of other aspects of the film: each person in the opening has a close and personal relationship with music, as something that they live with day-in day-out. Similarly, Mia and Seb (and the other characters who participate in the musical numbers) sing and dance not because they want to be singers but because singing is just a way for them to express themselves and to feel - like the characters at the start who listen to music in their cars.

The first time around I found Sebastian to be a problematic character to fully enjoy: he's stubborn and snobby and occasionally callous. But there's something to be said for the way he dedicates himself to Mia in the film - supports her and lifts her up, sidelines himself so that she can be the main character (which I think she is, the poster draws our eyes to her first and she's our heroine in this world, just consider "Audition", which is the song of the film and her song. There's a reason City of Stars is a duet) The scene with the argument is so perfect, goes wrong so convincingly. Seb's may be harsh and mean but he knows he's projecting his sense of discontent onto her, realising that he shouldn't have conflated her wish for stability with his choices (which are just that, choices). The film, and Mia, hold him accountable.

The camera moves with such fluidity, the takes feeling so long and smooth (even when there are edits, they don't really feel like them, making the shorter takes more meaningful - like the ones that mark the shared look at the end between Mia and Seb) and it perfectly marries both the music and the films it wants to hark back to (who doesn't get a kick out of a great iris shot?)

The dream ballet is so overwhelming - the way it begins, with the revisiting of that key scene in JK Simmons' restaurant, tips me off the edge into sobs, and then the replay of the whole film through the rosy lenses of unfulfilled nostalgia just wrecks me. It underlines the symmetry of the film (I'm so upset about the double use of a forgotten pre-planned event, and the way these play out) Though La La Land doesn't have the idyllic happy ending that a lot of its own favourite films do, it's satisfying because of the way it deals in nostalgia and callbacks within the confines of its own 128 minute runtime. And like its sunny opening number, "Another Day of Sun", it feels full of hope despite pain along the way.

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