praise and awards, and this past weekend,
I finally got the chance to see what all of the
buzz was about.
Emma Stone plays Mia, an aspiring
actress working as a barista on a movie
lot in Hollywood. Unlike most characters
who are aspiring actresses, there’s never
the impression from Mia that she feels everything is immediately going to go her way. She’s grounded, and while she never says it, she probably know that her dream is a long shot. She tells Sebastian about growing up with her actress aunt with whom she watched old movies and expresses a love for a classic style of filmmaking.
Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian. He’s a jazz enthusiast struggling to make it as a jazz pianist. He gets fired from his job playing in a restaurant/club because he improvises and doesn’t stick to the setlist of Christmas songs the manager has set out. When he meets Mia, he finds out she hates jazz…until he takes her to a jazz club and shows her his passion for it. And his passion shines through.
Sebastian doesn’t like the direction jazz is headed. He feels it’s taking away the soul of the music and adding unnecessary flash and bang to sell itself to a younger crowd. His former classmate tells him that the kind of jazz he likes is listened to by 90-year-olds in clubs, but it’s not the future. He convinces Sebastian to join his band, and it’s clear that Sebastian hates the style of it, but he takes the job in order to work toward his dream of owning his own jazz club.
This commentary on the lost art of jazz is a major theme explored in the film, and it largely speaks to the lost art of art in general. It could be any genre of music, any form of performance, or any form of art which has sacrificed quality and artistry for the sake of commercialism. It’s explored more in the world of jazz in the film than it is in the world of filmmaking, but the point is well made. Even the film has an old soul to it…an older style.
There are no doubt familiar themes and motifs explored in the film: the relationship between two seemingly mismatched people who share a lot more in common than they initially think, that point at which they fight and you wonder if they’ll break up, the moment when one is ready to quit their dream: but the film manages to explore it in a unique and original way and it feels very fresh.
The score and the soundtrack of the film are especially strong. I’m not usually the type to watch musicals, but this one felt completely natural. La La Land is a wonderfully made film with outstanding performances.