Seeing Damien Chazelle’s name slapped on the side also made me groan. I think I’m the only person alive who has ejected the Whiplash DVD prematurely. I know, call me a monster, but I couldn’t stand watching it. My friends would tell me in high pitched, breathless voices that “it’s the same director as Whiplash!” as if that would encourage me to go.
My plan was to wait until the DVD of La La Land was under a tenner and then I’d consider buying it. Or, even better, wait until it comes to Netflix! But, while me and my boyfriend stood in freezing Edinburgh, our ghost tour not starting for another 4 hours, he convinced me to hide from the cold in a cinema.
The theatre was packed. So many shiny eyes glared at us as we entered; watching like hawks as we chose our seats. Few were left so we made our way closer to the screen than any regular cinema goer would normally travel. As we settle in, craning our necks back, I was ready to hate the Golden Globe triumph.
And then it started.
Vibrant colours, beautiful score, insane dancing, all in the first 5 minutes of the film. I’m a sucker for a good musical and the opening was incredibly promising. I felt myself relax and began to enjoy myself…
So I quickly snapped out of it and put my film critic hat back on.
Costumes were cute and quirky yes, setting was stunning, the cinematography was something to behold but the singing and dancing – in a musical, mind – was not perfect. I found myself scrutinising Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s every movements, facial expressions and delivery. Before seeing La La Land for myself I knew that the pair had won Best Actor and Actress. In the first half of the film I found myself questioning this decision. I found nothing to write about. Stone was quirky as ever, Gosling was his usual charming self, but I couldn’t believe they had won a Golden Globe for their performances.
Suddenly everything clicked into place. The message of the movie hit me in the face and the actors began to seriously act. The hurt in Stone’s eyes to the desperation of Gosling, the Golden Globe trophy began to make a little more sense. The cutesy, musical flash mob opening was forgotten as real life began to creep in.
My mother read me a tweet from one of her favourite authors, Christopher Brookmyre, which said, “Saw La La Land. A musical that forgets it’s a musical after about 45 minutes. Shaping up to be the critics most over-rated film of 2017.” She sat smirking at me devilishly, knowing I would take the bait and bite.
And bite I did.
Brookmyre, you missed the point! The reason the singing stops “after about 45 minutes” is because this is when characters begin to loose faith. La La Land isn’t about love, it isn’t even about music, it’s about dreamers. Those people who some will laugh at and say “they’ll never make it” or “they’re living in their own world” or even “they’re being unrealistic.” The people whose ideas control their lives, who never let real life get in the way of their goals, who want noting more than to achieve their dream. That’s the reason the musical forgets it’s a musical after about 45 minutes; the characters realise their dream is much harder to achieve than they originally thought. That’s why the musical opens with a large song and dance number; they’re going into the city with their dreams unshattered. And that’s why, Brookmyre, the song and dance numbers slowly disappear; because the city slowly crushes the dreamers dreams.
As someone who would label themselves a “dreamer” this film deeply touched me. I found myself weeping at Stone’s solo. I found myself looking over to my boyfriend in panic as I saw both Seb and Mia in both of us. I felt vulnerable as I found my heart breaking. I became what I had tried so desperately to avoid.
I became emotionally invested.
Suddenly it all made sense: the reason the actors aren’t the best singers or dancers is so I can relate more to them – it’s more realistic. The reason the film came across so artsy and pretentious- it’s to show how the dreamers think. The reason the colours are so vibrant, the cinematography so brilliant, the aesthetics so gorgeous- well, that’s Chazelle’s genius isn’t it?
So, if like myself you hear the hype about this film and groan – don’t let it put you off. It’s the first film I’ve seen in 2017 and it’s ready to take the title of my favourite film of the year (and it’s still only January!) I would definitely recommend this film to any dancers, singers, artists, writers, filmmakers, basically anyone who has been told their dream is too far fetched. Anyone who has had an elderly couple frown at them and ask, “But what are you really going to do with your life?” It’s for all us dreamers.
Which is every single one of us, in one way or another.