Dir. Damian Chazelle. U.S. 2016

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


I’ve always assumed that referring to Los Angeles as “La La Land” was a put down, a pejorative description of the city as the home of illusion and fantasy. Damian Chazelle in his film titled La La Land, however, sees it as the home of a different sort of make-believe – an enchanting, joy-filled arena where singing and dancing about life is as authentic as living it. Here Los Angeles plays itself with a mixture of fantasy and reality and a nod to films such as Jacques Demy's musicals of the French New Wave, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort. Reinventing the genre for a new generation, La La Land offers a delightful combo of jazz, pop songs, dance routines, and two people in love dreaming under the stars. It’s enough to make you think that our current political scene may only reflect temporary insanity.

In the film, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an aspiring jazz pianist, and Mia (Emma Stone), a promising actress, come to Hollywood to fulfill their dreams, but find that dreamers are not always in vogue. The now well-known opening scene is shot on the L.A. Freeway, but those who drive it every day probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference in the volume of noise, wall-to-wall cars, and people acting out. Here, though the acting out is – really acting, though the commuters seem as agitated as always. The fake traffic jam, however, is much more entertaining than the real one as a chorus bursts out with the song “Another Day of Sun,” written by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and you forget that you will be very late for work.

The story itself is bittersweet though it always has an air of innocence. Mia works behind the counter at the Warner Brothers studio lot but still makes time for auditions that may only last thirty seconds or less. Seb dreams of owning his own jazz club but is forced to play Christmas music at a lounge by his boss (J.K. Simmons), a little less overbearing than in Whiplash, but still ornery enough to fire him when he stops playing Jingle Bells. Mia wants to meet the fired pianist after his doomed gig but he rudely brushes right past her – no meet cute, there. Of course, we all know they are going to be a couple eventually and when they do come together romantically, they are a charming pair who exude chemistry as they make their way through some of Los Angeles’ notable tourist attractions such as Griffith Park Observatory where they fly halfway to the stars.

Though Gosling and Stone are no Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire, they are good enough to elevate our spirits as they sing and dance to the strains of songs such as “City of Stars,” a tune that you may even remember after you go home. Although she is not a big fan of jazz, Mia and Seb do have a love of music in common but their relationship becomes complicated when he joins a band led by John Legend and commits himself to going on tour. Mia has put her hopes in performing a one-woman play but it fails to attract an audience, and she is back to square one. Nonetheless, La La Land works hard from beginning to end to make its point that if you stick to your guns, work hard enough and don’t give up, things will eventually work out. That, however, may be its most gravity-defying trick of all.


Howard Schumann

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us