I'm no film buff, nor am I an avid frequenter of my local multiplex, lining up to bag the best seats in the house for the latest blockbusters the second they are released. I feel my admission of being a novice excuses any opinion that I may be about to put out into the ether that 'experts' may find fault with. Going to see La La Land, starring the Hollywood powerhouses, Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling, I had formed an idea of what the film would be. Wrong move right there! Why I chose to decide what it was all about (or what I thought it should be) in advance, I do not know. Was I let down? No, not at all. Just surprised I guess and with surprise, there's always that moment of questioning the whos, whys, whats and wheres....which led me to writing this.
I think La La Land challenges what a movie musical once was and has been up until this point. Tipping it's oh so dapper, yet modern hat to the golden era of film, not only does it juxtaposition the vintage with the shiny new but creates an entire uncharted version of what a movie musical can be. I could complain that I expected more dance scenes or that the dream sequence wasn't long enough or that there weren't as many songs as I'd hoped for but in doing so, I'd be saying there's a correct way of doing things and well, maybe there's not. Where's the instruction manual or mould that all movie musicals should adhere to in order to be classed as successful? I doubt they exist, or at least, I believe that they shouldn't. The attention to detail was impeccable throughout, with the cinematography, set design, wardrobe and choreography alone all harmonising beautifully to have you comfortably suspended somewhere between the past and the present. There's no way that all of those choices were flippantly tossed in to the mix without careful consideration. So if i were to question the integrity and intentions of Director Damien Chazelle, I'd framing his decisions as bi-products of laziness or lack of imagination. I think my preconceived ideas being unfounded left me a smidgen shell shocked and in limbo state of loving the film for challenging what I thought it would be and feeling uncomfortable with it's body swerve away from what we know and love of the classic movie musical.
As the credits started to roll, my mum's first words to me were "Well that was weird!" and yeah, it was, if by 'weird' you mean bold and somewhat brave. Without spoiling it entirely for those who haven't seen it yet, in harking back to a time that we often look to through rose tinted spectacles of idealism and romance and placing it in the here and now, the film reminds us that much of what we consume as entertainment via TV, film and the Internet nowadays is reality. We are obsessed with turning the mirror on ourselves and analysing every fragment of our being. You can't move for reality programmes and I wonder, what is all this real life stuff doing for the soul? We no longer crave escapism and have forgotten how to dream the impossible dream. Floating on clouds, tapping dancing at sunset and your eyes meeting over a crowded room as you fall head over heels in love are all possible in a movie musical and in the cynical, downtrodden, disillusioned reality we often face day to day, we should be seeking out the wonderment and whimsical worlds that the expressive arts can capture and transport you to. I love a real life story turned box-office smash as much as the next person but as La La Land lifts you off to a place where you dare to dream real life doesn't seem so appealing anymore.
What really impresses me about this film is, just as you give yourself over to the song and dance, La La Land flips everything on it's head and shows us that, whilst we can get lost in nostalgia and romance, we are indeed living our #reallives with not so picture perfect, happily ever after endings. Sounds depressing, eh? But in selecting the best of what films like Singing in the Rain and The Sound of Music have to offer, it then marries that with something we can relate to in the present day-something more tangible. In combining both worlds, it encourages you to consider the the what-ifs and pipe dreams we often suppress but also forces us to consider the Hollywood ending to not be the be all and end all-that finding our destiny, even when it looks very different to the one we'd hoped for, can still be a triumph. It teaches us that maybe there are struggles, disappointments and difficult decisions to be met with but if we allow our imaginations to soar and our inhibitions to dissolve, we'll find those moments of pure joy that will have is dancing in the rain.