“La La Land” appeals to this sports fan
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I get it. A white, straight male who usually is declaring who will be the next NBA MVP is writing a review for musical drama “La La Land.” It doesn’t make sense. I’m supposed to like action movies with explosions and gun fights. Don’t get me wrong, movies like that are great here and there (“John Wick” is fantastic), but “La La Land” is the kind of movie that isn’t easily forgotten.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) meet for the first time on the highway in a traffic jam, and their encounter ends with an obscene gesture from Mia as Sebastian drives off. That could have been the end of their relationship, and there would be nothing to talk about, but events transpire and one of the best movies of the year is born.
“La La Land” is a vibrant musical and an enduring love story wrapped into one. Mia is an aspiring actress who spends her mornings working as a barista and her afternoons in auditions that never seem to pan out. Sebastian is a jazz musician who longs be able to play classical jazz in his own club, but is confined to play a standard set list. They are struggling performers in LA, a dime a dozen, but seemingly through fate they find each other time after time.
Perhaps the most lasting thing about “La La Land” is the original music. Justin Hurwitz, collegiate friend of director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), masterfully crafts song after song that were stuck in my head for days after. I was even tempted to buy the soundtrack on iTunes. “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” both composed by Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, were nominated for Best Original Song in this year’s Academy Awards. “City of Stars” took home the prize (“La La Land” captured six awards and was falsely awarded Best Picture, in hilarious fashion). The song that stands out to me the most is “A Lovely Night.”
Mia and Sebastian walk to find their cars after being reunited at a party. The chemistry between Sebastian and Mia shines through even as they proclaim the starry LA night has been wasted on two people who have “got no shot.” They expertly sing and dance in my favorite number of the movie. Sebastian’s interjections during Mia’s singing add a comedic value, and it is one of the most professionally composed parts of the movie.
Sebastian’s love of jazz is a driving force throughout the film. He makes it clear to Mia that his goal is to open his own jazz club and aptly name it “Chicken on a Stick” after Charlie Parker, the saxophonist who liked to eat chicken on a stick.
Jazz is what cements Mia and Sebastian together in the first place. On a lackluster date, Mia can’t help but notice the background music being played in the restaurant, and it reminds her of all the things Sebastian preached to her about why jazz is so good. At this moment, “La La Land” grabbed me and didn’t let go until the credits rolled.
“La La Land” begins as a story about two regular people from LA aspiring to make it big, but it becomes so much more than that. It is an ode to musicals of days past, a love story that analyzes personal success’ impact on relationships, and most of all, it is one of my favorite movies in a long time.