An Ode to La La Land | Film

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By Claire.

I love movies. I love movies so much it consumes my entire body and my heart swells up and I feel like my chest is filled with hundreds of balloons just waiting to burst. I love movies with an all-consuming fire, but most of the time is probably more like a small smolder flickering between the cracks of those who came before.

My love is a single flame on a lone leaf, because as much as I love movies, I can’t help but feel like I’m a phony. I love movies, though I haven’t seen nearly enough. Yet tomorrow I am receiving my degree in Cinema Studies which tells the world otherwise. I’m not quite sure what good a fancy degree in professional movie watching counts towards my “legitimacy” of being a movie lover, but no one said my reasoning made sense.

Tonight, I saw an advanced screening of La La Land. Directed by Academy Award winner Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), La La Land is a modern day musical reminiscent of movie musicals of the 1940s, and tells the story of aspiring actress Mia and aspiring jazz musician/club owner Sebastian, who fall in love. Ultimately, the movie is about the journey of chasing your passion in the beautiful yet unforgiving Los Angeles. This was the most anticipated movie of my year, and my excitement showed no bounds. Yet at the film’s conclusion, I didn’t know how to feel, and felt like I needed to see it again to understand.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as Sebastian and Mia in La La Land.

I need another viewing, where I’m not thinking about how much I need to go to the bathroom for half the movie, as I could not bear the thought of missing a single moment; Another viewing, where I didn’t just come off an 8-hour shift at my job in retail, during the hectic Christmas period; Another viewing, where I could pick up on every detail, every nuance, fully appreciate and fully immerse. I certainly felt like it was beautiful, but was it everything I wanted it to be?

As we walked home, an odd 20 to 30-minute walk down a busy street filled with life and laughter, I had time to ponder. The night was warm, the street lights enchanting, and the more I thought about the film, the more I love it. La La Land has everything I am, everything I love, in a movie. It is a musical, filled with old Hollywood nostalgia, tap dances and wing-tip shoes. Mia and Sebastian’s love was founded on passion for their craft; with experiencing life and art together; with unwavering support.

La La Land could not have come to me at a better time. Tomorrow I graduate from university and receive my Bachelor of Arts degree. Next year will be the first time I have ever been out of school. I’ll most likely return to study, I love researching and writing film essays too much to not, but I am at a crossroads, with nothing planned past Christmas except for marvelous, grandiose dreams of writing a screenplay, writing for my blog, watching movies and maybe try my hand at film-making. Sometimes, this feels overwhelming. I have too many plans, not enough time nor motivation. La La Land, though, has reignited my passion.

A month has passed. I have carried La La Land in my heart as I continued working back to back long and laborious shifts at my bookstore job during Christmas (no matter how wonderful bookstores are, retail is retail is retail). I have repeatedly told my friends I needed to see it again, more than I need air, because life post-graduation is scary, and I needed a reminder to dream.

It’s starting to sink in that I’m not going back to Uni this year, so I actually have to do something with my life. For the past four years, my friends and I have been reminded time and time again about how hard it is to get a job in the creative industries. In fact, the last three weeks of our degree was dedicated to this (might as well study for the rest of your life instead), which is why I praise this movie so much.

Mia Dolan (played by the wonderful Emma Stone) is the character we all need. When we meet Mia, she is practicing for an audition in her car, on her way to her barista job. Her phone screen is smashed, she has coffee spilled all over her and her audition is interrupted so someone can get a sandwich. It's tiring, but she continues to strive forward. Her crappy barista job is on a movie lot and she points out iconic set pieces and emits sighs of love and awe as she witnesses movie making in action. She goes to audition after audition after audition, and she keeps the dream alive. Mia takes charge of her destiny and makes things happen, writing and creating her own one woman play, a role she deserves to have. Even when she hits breaking point, when her heart is in pieces and enough is enough, with the help of Sebastian she tries again.

Emma Stone as Mia Dolan, writing her own script.

It is no secret the movie has a terrific soundtrack, yet my favourite songs are the first two we see: ‘Another Day of Sun’ and ‘Someone In the Crowd’. Both are songs of optimism. The opening number, ‘Another Day of Sun’ is about coming to Los Angeles with a dream. This dream may not be achieved easily, but as the colourful ensemble dance between (and on) their cars on the LA freeway, they remind themselves to look up, because LA is harsh, but there’s always another day of sun. Melbourne’s weather is temperamental and prone to cloud cover, but my mood is always lifted when I listen to this song on the train as I make my way to work.

The equally catchy ‘Someone In the Crowd’ is sung by Mia’s housemates, in an attempt to draw Mia out of the apartment and to a big Hollywood party.  After a lousy audition, the last thing you want to do is be ignored by Hollywood snobs in a strangers house, yet her housemates believe in taking every opportunity, they believe in fate: “Someone in the crowd could take you where you want to go / If you're the someone ready to be found.” My invitations to lavish film industry parties are few and far between, but as I find myself sitting on my couch more often than usual, this song provides the push I need to apply for more jobs, even if I feel I’m under-qualified, because you never know who you may meet.

Outside the cinema after my second viewing, I joke to my fellow creative industry dreamers that it's gonna take six years to achieve my dream. La La Land is a musical, a love letter to LA, and a love story, but it also champions those who have a dream, and the importance of surrounding yourself with those who offer fierce support. Life is tough, and you're going to be dealt some tough blows, and I know La La Land is just a movie, BUT IT HELPS, because life without art is meaningless.

La La Land has its faults: The heart of the film hides behind spectacle, making the first half of the movie more engaging than the second, the return of Damien Chazelle’s White guy Manslpains Jazz plotline, Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian is replaceable, and Gosling did nothing remarkable with him so I’m going ahead and saying his Golden Globe was undeserved—but this is insignificant compared to what it means to me.

P.S, if you want to chat about that ending, let me know because OH BOY I am so HERE for it/you.

Cause a Cine do not own any of the images sued in this post.
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