La La Land: Bittersweet charm with music that will leave you reeling

Blackmail has it’s merits! Who knew emotional manipulation could get such good results?

What do I mean? Well, I was targeted by a malicious pressure that forced me to… w-w-watch t-two movies in one day. It still hurts to remember.

Now, how did this happen? Well, I had planned to see “Logan” with some people and I managed to back myself into a really comfortable and spacious corner. I could either take a bus home OR see LaLa Land to get a ride back. I couldn’t bring myself to ride with the peasants so my hands were tied. And let me tell you something. I don’t have the stamina for two movies. Especially, after seeing Logan.

Coming out of Logan, I was certain that the La La Land and Logan would combine in my head by the end of the day. A strange lovechild called LoganLand that nobody would ever want.

“I still tear up when I think of Ryan Gosling getting killed by that tree after that dance number.”

What I didn’t expect to happen was what actually happened. Lala land destroyed and dishonoured Logan in my head. It took centre stage. I went into the movie as a cynical, shitty man and came out a cynical, shitty man who had just seen a brilliant musical.

 I didn’t have any hopes at all for La La Land, to be brutally honest.  Before the movie, someone informed me that I was about to see one of the worst movies that has graced our green Earth. I questioned where she had lost her heart after the movie and she said “down the loo”. I decided not to press her on her review seeing as how she had bigger problems.

The start of the movie seemed to confirm what poison I had been fed by her. A musical number.

Bam. One shot to the chest.

A flash mob in a traffic jam. Bam bam.

I didn’t know it was a musical before the movie started so I had been praying that the woman humming wouldn’t burst into song. My prayers fell on deaf ears. And honestly, I feel bad for that deaf guy I was praying to because he missed out on a wonderful opening.

The music is the one thread that keeps the whole movie together, tying scenes and characters together.  Listening to it now is even dredging up memories and emotions. My friend has a very similar relationship with Interstellar’s music. If he hears it, his throat will instantly clench up and he’ll get this deep, primal urge to watch Interstellar. Just know that this soundtrack is my weakness. I’m listening to it now and steadily losing the fight. Call for help if you see me going back to La La Land for second helpings. It’s a sign that I’ve been infected!

The music and the movie, as a whole, shared a surreal quality. The way the scenes slid in and out of musical numbers. In and out of reality. Within those 90 minutes, the movie reprogrammed me into thinking that dancing spontaneously was perfectly normal in our society. A couple of cha cha slides outside showed me the error of my ways.

You see, I’ve never actually seen a movie centred on romance, dance numbers and vocal sections except for  Mamma Mia and some questionable rom-coms. Alpha males like me can’t ingest beta male juice. Of course, it’s just not compatible.  So, you are receiving a unique perspective.

Someone who’s never been served love in a movie.

“Movie love” isn’t your conventional love, either. This is big, bad Hollywood love and these two actors were good enough to show it off to it’s full extent. It felt like they had such a strong emotional connection that they couldn’t NOT dance (it was very handy  that they had a pair of tap shoes on hand for moments like these)

. It wasn’t just the performance of the music that had you smiling, the music itself was just as powerful. It’s an old trick but still effective. They hammered a motif into your head for the whole movie and then fashioned that motif into a knife for the end of the film. When the movie reaches it’s climax, they pull out that knife and push it into your gut, making sure to twist. It felt like all of the music in the whole movie had been specially crafted to really fuck you up.

I should mention the plot because that is most probably important. And, to be honest, it seems very standard from a distance.

The formula: You have two people who want to aspire to something greater and can’t. At first, they don’t seem to have anything in common but they find that they have similarities. They get together and either they stay together or they drift apart. This is a great formula for an okay film.

How did La La Land grow into something exceptional with the same recipe?

It’s the actors.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling ooze character [they should probably get this looked at]. They may not be the best dancers or singers but they put so much heart into it that it doesn’t even matter. I mean I had to look up after the movie “Do actors feel anything when they kiss” so maybe that’s a good indication of how invested I was in their relationship. Unhealthily so.

As well as the actors, the message contributed immensely because it went much deeper than the shallow plot. It focused on how two determined people can push each other towards their dreams. It also showed that sometimes you have to compromise and that this isn’t a bad thing . A very realistic message for an “unrealistic” movie. The epilogue, drives this painful lesson home when it shows us what could have been. It settles for a more realistic sad smile instead of a perfect relationship.

The epilogue for me was where the movie burst into an absolutely transcendent state. If you have any questions about the universe, you must now refer to La La Land. The epilogue was framed in such a creative and endearing way. They had all the musical numbers woven in. They played on the audiences emotions by showing an alternate timeline (fuck them for that). They used everything from silhouettes to video recordings to show us.

The meaning?

Well, that hits you right between the eyes, making you have to think of a runny eye excuse on the fly. It shows how fleeting time can be and how a small change can alter the course of two lives.

The only word for the ending is bittersweet. There is nothing I hate more than bittersweet. I can’t complain because the ending was “technically” happy. However, I’d rather be complaining my heart out. Complaining means that you’re not focusing on that niggling melancholy. It was one of those endings where you  want to get up at scream at that big, insulting screen and stomp around for a bit. I’m not lying when I tell you that that is how invested I was. I wanted Gosling to waddle up to Emma and take her from her asshole husband who WILL NEVER HAVE THE SAME LOVE THEY HAD, DO YOU HEAR Me?

Everything from the setting to the plot, held me for those two hours. I was running off fumes at that point so maybe this film doesn’t even exist but if La La Land was all in my head it was damn good. It’s very reminiscent of past Hollywood romances but it tries to tell a story which is more real. I respect this greatly. The actors overflowed with passion and … humanity. All of their interactions seemed very real. To top it off, the music showed off a range of  emotions and hidden dialogue that you couldn’t possibly pull off without it.

There’s a reason why La La Land has climbed all the way up to my top ten list. Don’t ask me about the other ten. That would ruin this moment.

“What moment?”

The moment I give La La Land a perfect score. Wait, can I not do that on my first review? Oh, alright. Minus one to make myself look like a better critic.

9/10 – a musical that smiles, kicks you in the teeth and then throws a punch at your heart for good measure.


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