La La Land I'm ready to talk about it

Artwork by Astrid Ana Jansen

It’ll be impossible to steer carefully clear of the confusion of yesterday’s Oscars after Moonlight was belatedly declared the winner for Best Picture, after many of La La Land‘s cast and crew had already addressed their winning speeches. The shadows of political arguments should threaten to surround the award long after the afterparty champagnes were poured, but it should be maintained that La La Land‘s non-triumph is still celebrated for the treasure it is in today’s box-office.

“What came first, the music or the misery?” was the concern I had to drag along with me ever since John Cusack took it upon himself to ask the imperative questions in High Fidelity. Incidentally too, in an otherwise whimsical and light-hearted rom-com, Cusack was given less than forgiving reviews for spending more time talking to his audience, than his co-characters in the 2000 film.

“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

The full uninterrupted quote penned by author Nick Hornby in the book that came five years before the film proved to be more compelling than Cusack’s depiction, adding that little tinge of uncertainty with every heartbreaking ballad I’ve heard since.

Like The Sound of Music, Pitch Perfect, or even Les Misérables that came before La La Land, “musical dramas” started building their own foundation of films that did exceedingly well to depict a record or a soundtrack. The hullabaloo that surrounded La La Land, however, came with reason. A whirlwind of wishful nostalgia that was made possible with Justin Hurwitz’s stirring composition gracefully accompanied a romance that begged for resonance. Place all of that in a 50s backdrop in the heart of today’s postmodern problems, and you finally have that masterpiece you never knew you longed for.

That threadbare excuse of going into a movie with little to no expectations and therefore getting an optimum reaction didn’t work with La La Land. Nothing nearly as stratospheric came from just the trailer just yet, but maybe and perhaps because it seemingly only flaunted the symphonious romance between the hunky-dory Ryan Gosling, and belle of the ball Emma Stone. 14 Oscars nominations, seven awards at the Golden Globes, and rampant social media updates only reenforced all user reviews; once word got round, you just had to watch it for yourself.

Seated in the cinemas and waiting to be impressed was admittedly something I wasn’t used to, and to be blown away by a budding romance between two of Hollywood’s heartthrobs seemed strangely unfamiliar with my usual penchant for a genre that asked the bigger questions; much like Moonlight.

La La Land‘s efforts to offer entertainment and escape should be lauded, if not for it’s exquisite execution. I’ll level with you; a romantic notion that is tugged along with an excellent musical score isn’t all that new, is it? The above mentioned “musical dramas” have done it, as have most Bollywood films. And Bollywood, it has to be said, thrives on romance. Their ideologies, both past and present, are built on the sentiment that all will be sacrificed, or at least put on hold, in hopes of getting together with their love interest. And that is where La La Land leaves you fidgeting in your seat trying to make sense of the peculiar sensations you start feeling throughout the movie.

Gosling and Stone, lovers on set, turn slowly into dreamers. For each other, sure, but more for their careers, and suddenly you, as the audience, find yourself in different waters trying to comprehend who could be so foolish to do just that. How could you spend hours working and improving on a storyline of two adorable lovers, only to have them go their own ways? You have to wonder if Damien Chazelle had this pinned on his mind, and making it all painfully clear with the montage that leads you to the climax, showing you a reality you were so desperate for, and one that screamed “what could have been”. 

“…it was always one of life’s biggest tragedies that it doesn’t come packaged with an aptly curated musical score.”

Therein laid the esteemed accomplishments of La La Land; giving the audience the liberty to write their own climax, one that will have you questioning love in a way no one else bothered. It never came down so much to love between a man and a woman, but instead it challenged the idea of giving up romance for your dreams, a far cry from the now antiquated portrayal of love between two individuals.

The drone of the end-credits gets swallowed whole by the chatter and debates over the ending of the film, but it was all only spurred on by our unfamiliarity of having witnessed the two dreamers picking their own lives over each other, all still while not loving each other any less.

La La Land was summed up impeccably by my choice of refreshments to accompany me through the film; a mix of sweet and salted popcorn. Essentially built by the simplicity of one layer of sweet over one layer of salted, the magic really kicks in after your first bite into the mix of both flavours. The ambiguity of the fusioned flavours might have been something you were after when you made the order, but the fulfilment and satisfaction still warms you up every time.

And as for music and the misery, it was always one of life’s biggest tragedies that it doesn’t come packaged with an aptly curated musical score.

Submit a comment