30 January 2017

"La La Land:" Hollywood Inversion

I'm not the one to list all the allusions to the golden age of musicals found in La La Land. Suffice it to say that there were many. (If you're really interested go here for a list from Slate and here for a video compilation.) Its self-referential nature serving as an homage to Hollywood helps explain why Hollywood itself poured 14 Academy Award nominations on the film.

Aside from its wealth of allusion--and indeed by its ingenious its use of allusions--La La Land effectively inverts the traditional four-step plot of golden-age romantic comedies (boy and girl hate each other at first sight, they gradually fall in love, circumstances drive them apart, and either they happily reunite or sadly never see each other again). La La Land conventionally follows the first three steps but inverts the fourth. Instead of uniting in love or repining in sorrow ever after, we see "five years later" that Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) have each pursued their individual dreams to individual successes. Rather than strengthening the other over the long haul, each has gone his and her way to grab the golden ring of life. To be sure, both experience a sense of regret in the "five years later" scene but regret is as much an homage as La La Land can muster. The golden age must submit to contemporary mores.

Everything about La La Land is enjoyable. The music and dancing, the dialogue and cinematography, and the acting and singing are all top-notch. Stone and Gosling are not great dancers or singers but they are good enough. The dialogue is crisp and moving and (re)framing of classic scenes and scenery is powerful. Its education in jazz was informative. All in all, an excellent movie that we greatly appreciated seeing.

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