Love In La La Land

la_la_land_filmMy wife and I indulged in a first-run movie last night. A choir member gifted us with theater tickets and we had a nice experience. I texted my wife and asked her to pick a film. So she chose this one, whose poster you see, left.

I tend to be a skeptic on fads. Sometimes I come around, as I did with Harry Potter, reading the first book as lines were out around the block for #4. Hamilton. But I have to admit: sometimes critical acclaim is spot on.

There are many love affairs in this movie. Sebastian and Mia: that’s obvious. On Sebastian’s love for jazz: one of the best descriptions of the genre is when he’s explaining to Mia, who professes dislike. By the end of the movie, I think she’s largely drawn into it. Somebody loves Los Angeles; no other scenes are as lovingly shot as the views of the city, even from jam-packed expressways. Love for old movies: check.

So this is a musical, if you count movies with some songs in them. The songs serve to deepen the narrative, but all is driven by the various loves.

If this movie has a flaw, I wonder if it’s with the writing of the character Mia. She aspires to being an actor. She does take her beau and the viewer on an affectionate tour of a Hollywood studio. But the pounding, relentless rejections of auditions are more soul-sapping than her lover’s experience with music. He can get music gigs whenever, whatever. But the jazz cannot be held in. Until he tries to hold it in for her benefit, based on a conversation he overhears between her and her mother. I don’t think Mia’s love for acting quite comes through. No scenes from her one-woman play are shown. The viewer gets auditions, backstage scenes, and the final bow, but nothing at all of the substance of Sebastian’s music. Maybe it’s just because a guy wrote and directed the movie. And maybe it’s nit-picky, but the two leads here, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are more than a match for this material. Their craft is outstanding throughout.

My favorite aspect was the infusion of a kind of magical realism in many of the musical numbers. Sebastian gets a do-over of sorts in the film’s epilogue, replaying the last five years of his life if he hadn’t been a jerk on his second encounter with Mia. So there’s a bit of melancholy to finish off the film. I think my wife disliked that: no ending is totally happy. She did remark that the potty language was minimal and there were no depictions of sex beyond kissing and dancing. Then I recalled that people are shown in bed, but almost always alone.

Verdict? Recommended.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Love In La La Land

  1. Liam says:

    I saw it on the New Year’s holiday and would happily return to see it to absorb more detail, which I may do this weekend – something I’ve not done in decades. (There’s a great deal of film references in it.) The opening sequence was shot on a famed traffic junction in 100F+ degree heat in August….. It’s not that it’s a *great* Film of All Time but it is wonderfully diverting at a time I need diversion as a matter of discipline. Too much death around my circle in the past 3 months and more likely coming.

    My favorite sequence was the Hermosa Beach Pier. The film is a loving embrace of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de la Porciuncula . . . o .. El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles.

    I saw Hidden Figures on MLK Day. Worth seeing. Well written for the three female leads. You need to overlook the fictionalization of a number of historical details, but the drama is effective and well cast and well performed. Opening sequence captures something special. I love the intersection of the two great forward movements of my childhood – the civil rights movement and the space program – which were passions of my parents (my father was on the team that developed the communication systems for the lunar module). And Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst must have enjoyed their unusual casting in restrained if somewhat stock negative foil roles.

    • Liam says:

      PS: The second viewing, this time in an IMAX theatre with an appreciative neighbor, was worth the effort. Musicals tend to benefit from repetition, so long as they are good or better than good.

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