With the Oscars quickly approaching, January 2017 has witnessed La La Land capture the world’s attention, and for many, its heart. Whilst set in modern day LA, it is a unique film that brings back scenes from classic musicals such as Singing in the Rain and West Side Story (click here for a cleverly edited video of the many film references). Although Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling do not have typically powerful voices that we would normally hear on Broadway, there is something humanising about the way they tackle the uniquely beautiful music score by Justin Hurwitz. Simplicity here is key: the piano Gosling plays does not need much accompanying; Stone’s voice does not need to belt impressively high notes; and the choreographies are not ornamented by athletic feats such as somersaults and flips. Much of this simplicity has been lost in today’s cinema, with films such as Fletcher’s Step Up and even Condon’s Dreamgirls favouring talents that, while impressive, are unattainable to most. La La Land, however, reclaims the simplicity that we may see in films from the 50’s, making the characters before us more relatable. Well, as relatable as they can be, what with the whole spontaneously bursting into song part.
Furthermore, La La Land is relatable in the glorification and escapism of Hollywood and dreams. Although it references and celebrates the magic of cinema, it undoubtedly contrasts everyday reality with its unreality. The film follows two dreamers, aspiring actress Mia, and Seb, whose heart is set on opening his own jazz-club. Their lives, and to an extent their relationship, are structured around these dreams and the belief that it is not a matter of “if” but “when”. The concept of Hollywood in the film is abstract and elusive, a world as unknown to the protagonists as it surely is to most film-goers. However, it is precisely because of the mystery of the unknown that Mia and Seb continue to chase their dreams, thus making La La Land not only a celebration of the past, but also of an imagined future.
Overall, La La Land has rightly earned its place as the prospective show-stealer at this year’s Oscars, offering a vibrant film with a modern take on classics. It is predicted to win as many awards as, if not more than, films such as Titanic and Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King. Being placed alongside these films will undoubtedly cause much conflict, as the subject of its plot is somewhat breezier than the sinking of a ship or the battles of a fantasy world. However, when placed among other films of its genre, La La Land undoubtedly stands out as one of the best of its category.
Book tickets to see La La Land at Manchester’s HOME on their website.