“La La Land” Revives the Musical for a New Generation
By Skip Sheffield
Is the movie musical dead? Writer-director Damien Chazelle hopes not. Chazelle is only 31, but his charming musical “La La Land” is a loving tribute to the movie musicals of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Chazelle is from Providence, Rhode Island, so perhaps his outsider status provided insights into 21st century Los Angeles. The movie begins with a wonderfully silly opening song and dance sequence on an L.A. freeway. Everyone is stuck in his or her vehicle. Why not open a door and dance about on the hoods and roofs of cars? It is totally ridiculous, but it introduces us to the main characters; Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling).
Sebastian is not a good sport in traffic. He cuts off Mia to gain maybe one car length. She flips him off with a bird. Obviously they are destined to fall in love.
Sebastian is a purist jazz pianist reduced to playing children’s birthday parties. Mia is an actress who can’t quite find an appropriate role.
Emma Stone is not a drop-dead gorgeous woman, but she has something about her that makes her fascinating.
Ryan Gosling is no Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but he too has an offbeat appeal. Gosling took a crash course in learning to play the piano, and he is quite convincing.
The artist who calls himself John Legend has a small but crucial role as Keith, a band leader who wants Sebastian to gig with him.
To properly appreciate “La La Land” it is helpful to be a romantic who appreciates love against all odds. It is also helpful to have practical experience with performing music and pleasing an audience. A working knowledge of Los Angeles is helpful too.
I have all three, so I am a perfect target audience. No wonder I loved this film. It is totally fake and totally engaging. I hope there are enough hopeless romantics to make this movie a success.