stephen’s review published on Letterboxd:
December 21, 2016 changed my life forever.
I had been anticipating the movie for the entire month before that, waiting desperately for my movie theater to finally show La La Land. I listened to the soundtrack constantly, watched the trailer at least a thousand times. At that point in my life, I didn’t even like musicals that much. I wouldn’t even say I was that big of a movie fan. But there was something about the concept of the film that struck a chord with me. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to see it. I wanted to see it so bad that, with all of my friends and family busy getting ready for the holidays, I decided I was willing to see the film all by my lonesome.
My movie theater is right next to my local mall. Since it was four days before Christmas, the entire parking lot was packed; it took me 20 minutes to find a spot, and it was all the way on the other side of the block. Not only that, it was absolutely pouring rain, and I almost killed myself driving on my way there.
I had to walk ten minutes in the rain just to reach the theater. As I sat soaked and alone in the dark, I wondered to myself, was this all worth it? In the back of my mind, I was dreading the thought of the film not reaching lofty my expectations. And then the movie starts: “Another Day of Sun” plays, and I totally forget all of my earlier troubles. I forgot pretty much everything for the next two hours, except for one singular thought: “I am in love, I am in love, I am in love.”
La La Land is easily one of my favorite films of all time. This is why.
LIFE IN LOS ANGELES
I live about 30 minutes away from Los Angeles, been there hundreds of times. To those that don’t live in California or the U.S. and have never been there, I can tell you this: the actual city is not nearly as pretty as the film makes it out to be. The city is more grey than it is colorful. There are some rude assholes. Some areas within the city are actually dumps. However, there is something about the way Damien Chazelle films the city that makes those familiar places seem so magical. The mise en scene reflects the way that hopefuls see Hollywood, a place where dreams are meant to come true. It’s brilliant, captivating, beautiful~and makes me appreciate the culture that I live near so much more.
RYAN GOSLING AND EMILY JEAN STONE
Rarely these days do you see a pair of actors who work together as frequently and as well as Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Not since Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant have I liked a duo so much; their chemistry is so fantastic that it’s hard to believe they aren’t together in real life. Ryan Gosling is by far my favorite actor working today (and probably my second favorite all time, following the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Emma Stone is easily the most adorable human being on the planet. They are two of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and they completely disappear into their incredibly well-realized characters.
SEBASTIAN AND MIA
Sebastian is a man who is extremely confident in his piano playing ability, while Mia (god I love this name, I’m going to name my daughter this) is the exact opposite when it comes to her acting; both are frustrated that the world isn’t noticing their great passion for their respective arts. In that way, they find common ground, and a sensible romance that helps them cope with their failing dreams. As the film progresses, Seb finds success in his jazz-ish band but isn’t happy; Mia is happy making her own play but is not finding any success. The struggle finding both is a big challenge for both characters, and this eventually affects their love for each other. It’s raw and relatable. People complain that the film puts its all of its supporting characters in the background. Pishy caca! That aspect is actually what I love about the film; it’s laser-focused on two people’s love and desires.
DOUBT OF FUTURE
I feel like this film really helped me address a problem that I had back in late 2016; a sense of doubt. I was accepted to a great college coming out of high school, and almost went there; until at the last second I opted to go to my local community college instead. At the time, I was really struggling with the idea of what I wanted to do with my life. What if I picked a career that wouldn’t work out, or maybe I wouldn’t like in the future? There is a great pressure within my family of being successful. Growing up scared the shit out of me, and it still does. La La Land has helped me realize that it’s okay to have doubts, because it just means you care so much. Keep working and working, and even if it doesn’t work out, at least you gave it your best shot. And if you are one of the few lucky people to find success, then you’re golden. To give your life meaning is hard, but it’s worth it finding a certain desire. One year later, I’ve found a career that I care about and want to succeed in. Who says film doesn’t affect your real life?
In my eyes, Pasek and Paul can do no wrong. Obviously this movie is an example. The Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack is absolutely amazing and I’m dying to see the Broadway show. Probably the most meaningful of all, they’re the reason why The Greatest Showman is actually watchable. Their contemporary sound and catchy lyrics is just my taste in music, and I’ve listened to the La La Land soundtrack more than any other genre album combined. I listen to the original score when I try to do my homework. “A Lovely Night” makes me want to start dancing every time it plays. I listen to “Another Day of Sun” when I’m driving to school right before a big test to hype me up. Each and every piece is pure joy to my ears, and even after one full year on replay I still can’t get enough.
MY THOUGHTS ON CRITICISMS AND THE OSCAR CONTROVERSY
"It feels really nostalgic to me. Is it too nostalgic?"
"That's the point."
"Are people gonna like it?"
A lot of complaints about this film is that it’s too nostalgic, stealing elements of earlier works in Hollywood. I can’t say that I agree or disagree with this, because honestly I probably haven’t seen most of the films (such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which many say is the most easily comparable). For those that I have seen, I can understand why people see it that way. I’d like to say, however, that just for me, I can’t help myself but have a huge love for nostalgia. Whether it’s rewatching old Disney Channel shows, or appreciating the reimagining of old Disney classics, I tend to be nicer to films that many people say are “unoriginal”. It helps me remember the good old days of my youth; I’m not going to criticize a film that makes me happy.
Not all of the humor works. There are many technical flaws that I notice the more and more that I watch. The dancing and singing isn’t perfect. I too, recognize the problems with the film, but I tend to forgive it because of how much I care about it. When I watch La La Land nowadays, I visualize the film not only as if it were perfect, but if I were starring in the film as Sebastian and Anya Taylor-Joy (my Hollywood crush) as Mia. I imagine myself saying Seb’s lines in my own way, doing the dances, and think about overall how I would make the film better than it already is. Is this weird? Probably. But I can’t say that I have been this dedicated to any other movie.
There was a lot of debate going into the 2017 Oscars of who should win Best Picture: Moonlight or La La Land. I absolutely love watching the Oscars, but I always cared more about getting nominations than actual wins, so I didn’t mind if any other film than my favorite would win. Something that did bother me, however, was how, after the Oscar mishap happened, people on both sides would criticize the other film greatly because it didn’t match their personal opinion. I thought it was stupid to hate on Moonlight because it beat La La Land. I hated that people would hate on my favorite film of 2016 because they would say it wasn’t as “progressive” as the future winner. You’re totally justified to having your own opinions, but to bring down another movie just because of a simple award ceremony just makes me angry.
For the few next months after the Oscars, I was afraid to talk about La La Land being a close favorite of mine, scared that people would laugh in my face about the Oscars and especially scared that people would make fun of me for saying how much I adored a musical film. But that has since changed. I’m proud to say I adore, regardless of its flaws and controversy, that I am still in love with La La Land. I am still in love, I am still in love, I am still in love.
EPILOGUE (of my review)
This review was originally supposed to be my celebration for 100 followers, which I hit back in early November. All I can say is sorry! It was a combination being extremely busy with school and straight-up laziness. This doesn’t change the fact that I am extremely thankful to everyone that follows me. Letterboxd has given me an outlet to review, log, and express my feelings of movies online with a great community of people with a similar passion. Thank you Mr. Chazelle, Mr. Gosling, Miss Stone, and every single person involved in this film. It has changed my life forever. Finally, thank you to you for reading, whether it’s only specific parts or the entire thing. Here’s to the fools who dream! <3