La La Land is both heartbreaking and surreal

Lala Land was one of this year’s biggest films and featured award winning actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Lala Land was one of this year’s biggest films and featured
award winning actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment.

“I’m still trying to figure out [La La Land]. I think that’s the sign of a good movie; I’m probably not ever going to think about “50 Shades of Grey” ever again,” said my wife Sarahbeth Walker.

This quote sums up “La La Land” well, I think. We saw the movie around Valentine’s Day, and it’s still toying with our feelings. Once the final scene ended I was stuck in my theater seat for at least five minutes, all the way through the credits and some after. Honestly, my soul was destroyed.

“La La Land” is a movie that focuses around the lives of Mia, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, a cynical jazz musician who fits Ryan Gosling perfectly. The whole of the film takes place in modern day Hollywood where Mia struggles to live as a barista between auditions, the latter of which cuts dangerously in to her day job.

Sebastian, on the other hand, makes his playing occasional gigs around Hollywood. He has a fiery passion for jazz piano, and it’s this passion that sparks Mia’s interest in Sebastian—and causes him to lose his job.

What “La La Land” does extremely well is present this very tangible story in an intangible way. All of the emotionally grounding scenes are broken by fanciful dancing and music scenes. The marketers of this film deserve an Oscar themselves; going into the theater, I expected some sort of tribute to the song-and-dance of the Fred Astaire era.

Viewers did indeed get this, as the movie, in fact, opens with a rather strange musical-like affair on a bumper-locked Los Angeles freeway. This scene had to be one of the best of the film with interesting costumes and color coordination that was tasteful and intelligent.

“La La Land” constantly flows between the real and surreal using its dancing and singing, which I simultaneously liked and didn’t like. As the film progressed, I felt like it was losing its own identity. The first half is this bright, flourishing musical. The best of these scenes were those with Ryan and Emma together, where I could see the hard work and talent they shared together, much like Fred and Ginger Rogers.

These scenes were delightful distractions from the dark, swelling undercurrent of reality that would occasionally show itself and, eventually, took over the film as the dynamic duo finally found their successes.

At the end, when reality broke the already jagged pieces of my emotions, I was completely at a loss. This movie, whose climactic punch came in a sudden tidal wave of false expectation, is absolutely worth the time and money to see it. Never have I needed to just sit and absorb myself after a film, and this is one of the few that summoned more than a few tears. While it wasn’t perfect, it was very, very good.

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