Major spoiler alert, keep reading at your own risk (seriously, just go watch the movie first)
OK to be honest, this is not a proper movie review.
This is more like me needing to tell you how much and why I freaking loved La La Land.
I am writing this post mesmerized and deeply touched by this movie, but I have to say I didn’t have great expectations before I watched it.
First of all it’s a musical. And I HATE musicals.
I loved a musical only once, Moulin Rouge, when I was 16. Then I watched it again at 28 and I had to stop it halfway because it gave me a huge headache and since then I never ever approached the musical genre again, vade retro.
The first time I went to New York with my boyfriend he really wanted to go to Broadway. I mean, it’s something you do, right, go to Broadway when you visit New York for the first time… And he likes musicals and he really wanted to see one in Broadway and I told him NO WAY, if you really want to go I’m gonna wait for you outside, I wouldn’t go there even if I got a free ticket (I know, I’m such a nice girlfriend).
Second, there was such a hype around this movie and I’ve been disappointed by hyped movies so many times that I have PSTD now. I’m scared of hyped movies, they give me anxiety.
But there was a reason strong enough to beat my hate for musicals and my PSTD: Ryan Gosling.
I must be crazy to say no to 128 minutes of Ryan Gosling.
(OK, fine, he’s not in every single minute of the movie but you get my point).
(Little digression: when my boyfriend needs a haircut I go with him and make sure the barber follows my curated collection of Ryan Gosling’s haircuts on Pinterest. No I’m not a freak, what are you saying).
And I really like Emma Stone because, except very important qualities like being a lipstick master and the only woman on the planet that looks like a goddess in a canary yellow dress, she’s an amazing actress.
So I went ahead and watched it.
And boy, I was overwhelmed.
Half an hour into the movie I was telling my boyfriend “I wish this movie would never end”
(usually half an hour into a movie I am snoring).
But why did I like it so much?
Because I laughed and I cried, and I felt my heartbeat going very fast and slowing down together with those of Mia and Sebastian and at the end I found myself completely moved by this movie that starts like a light-hearted homage to old-style Hollywood classics and ends like a bittersweet tale of my generation.
Because the feelings told by this story are so real and true that it almost seems like you’re watching your own life. It’s like The Neverending Story, only with iPhones and shot in Instagram filters.
(And with Ryan Gosling ho ho ho).
I’ve read some negative reviews where the main argument was “it’s not a good musical, and it fails in its attempt to quote Hollywood classics”.
Helloooo, how could you not get what the real purpose of this movie was? How could you not feel which story the director wanted to tell us, the feelings he wanted to convey?
Because every part of Mia’s and Sebastian’s life is narrated through a type of light, a moment of the day… Have you ever noticed that when you remember events in your life you very often associate it with colours and a type of light? Morning brightness, afternoon orange sun, darkness of the night… Well, those colours and that light are the memory of your feelings. And a movie that manages to use colours and light like this is simply genius.
La La Land starts with the colours of a bright, warm sunny morning of great expectations. A bunch of weirdos are dancing and singing to the sun while stuck on the Interstate traffic (honestly I was about to stop the movie there, musical headache approaching). And even if you hate the song and the dancing weirdos and it kinda makes you angry when you compare it to your daily traffic experiences on the Antwerpse Ring, it sets the mood of the movie and asks you: what if life was like a movie in Technicolor? What if life was like a dream?
Then Mia and Sebastian meet and La La Land gives us the sparkles of a starry night, bringing us back to the exact moment we fell in love… I don’t know about you, but it made me feel like it was happening to me all over again in that very moment.
Running to that cinema (in my case it was a bar next to the concert hall in Ghent, but that’s not the point) barely able to breathe, your head so full of him and completely light and empty at the same time. Starry eyes, his scent next to you, so close but not close enough, the electricity of the first contact between two hands in the darkness.
Who didn’t feel like dancing in the stars during their first date, anticipating that kiss and already feeling a whole new story uncovering before their eyes?
The mood then switches to the deep warmth of a summer afternoon and make us travel through the exploration of the first days as a couple: my interests, your interests. Everything is pastel-coloured and your face is stuck in a smiling paresis. You never get bored, not even when he brings you to jazz concerts. Everything is a thrilling discovery.
And then you reach full couple status, you move in and still every night together feels as exciting as a sleep-over.
Then the lights fade out, it’s dusk now and pastel colours lose their saturation.
He’s starting to achieve his career dreams with a lot of hard work and commitment, and you’re trying to support him because we all know that “behind every great man there’s a great woman”. But at night you go to bed alone and alone you get your coffee in the morning: he had to work late again and he’s still sleeping.
Night, after night, after night.
He’s almost never home and you miss him so much but most importantly you miss the support you need. You feel lonely.
Because you’re not the heroine of a classic Hollywood’s movie, it’s 2016 girls.
Your dreams and aspirations are calling and loving him doesn’t make the totality of your life. You just can’t be happy like this. And there, right there, is where your roads start to separate. And it feels almost impossible to focus on your career and try harder when you’re feeling your relationship crumbling below your feet.
It’s all dim light and nights now in La La Land. Nights without stars.
And in one of these nights it all explodes, that tension that was building up for weeks, maybe months. That night, after he left you alone when you needed him the most, you snap and you finally break-up with him, you break-up with your life and the only thing you need is the comfort of your teddy bear at your parents’ home, the hug of your dad and the silent sympathy of your mom.
In this darkness, La La Land explores how it feels to be completely broken inside, to lose all your self-confidence to too many no’s and disappointments, to feel lost and question everything you did so far.
Am I right? Am I good enough? Maybe I’m just not meant to see my dreams come true?
But it can’t be night forever and La La Land brings us back to the light of the morning.
It’s a very cold morning now though, it doesn’t emanate the same warm bright light you saw on the Interstate, where that bunch of weirdos were dancing in the traffic.
It’s the light of a new beginning, albeit timid and fragile. The great expectations are not as sparkly as they were before because you went through a very hard path to get there and you lost your enthusiasm and optimism along the way.
And you had to leave your love behind.
Five years later, in a new afternoon light, you’re all grown up.
You’ve found your way and your self-confidence again and you’ve found success. Without that love who once made you dance in the stars.
You’re mature and content, your life couldn’t look more perfect.
It’s night again, and the traffic on the Interstate is just what it is: boring and seemingly endless.
You ask your husband to pull out, “let’s have dinner here”.
That is where you end up meeting him again, that old love who made you dance in the stars. After five years that passed in a second but that now have the weight of an eternity.
Unexpected and sudden, for a moment it almost feels like the first time you’ve met.
It’s a starry night again but there is no electricity in the dark, you can’t feel his scent.
But you can barely breathe, just like that time running to your first date, while the images of the life that you two could have had together pass before your eyes. The life you could have had if La La Land was really just a classic Hollywood musical. The life you could have had if life was really in Technicolor, like that sunny dance on the Interstate. The life that you could have had if the bright morning and the warm afternoon didn’t turn into a night without stars.
If being 30 years old wasn’t so fucking complicated, If only you didn’t always have to give up to something to achieve something else.
But it’s 2016, and the old-style Hollywood dream of a life that could have been different ends.
It’s a wake-up call, and it’s the end of the movie.
And seriously, when the words “The End” appeared on the screen I felt like someone eviscerated me of all my experiences, and the experiences of my friends and put them on a screen and told me: “You see? I understand you. I understand your feelings. I understand what you’ve been through. I put some Instagram filters and some stupid songs to make you swallow the pill better but I know I made you go through a catharsis and it wasn’t easy at all. Now go to the bathroom and wipe your tears and pretend like your boyfriend didn’t see you cry”.
And while I wrote this I got emotional again and I am deeply convinced that if you didn’t like this movie you:
- Are a monster and you have no feelings
- You obviously belong to another generation and totally don’t get what it means to be 28-35 in the 2010s
- You are a man
- You like musicals too much and you were so disappointed that the soundtrack wasn’t “good” enough to your liking. And this was enough to make you ignore the whole movie, because seriously if you focus on the fact that Stone’s voice wasn’t perfect instead of the thousands of feelings she can convey in a single frame you don’t have a soul
- You are a bad movie reviewer and you should definitely change job
- All of the above
A last consideration before I end this post on a lighter note as I’m risking to start seriously sobbing and hide in the bathroom with a box of Kleenex: I would like to thank La La Land for making me find solace in the fact that even a woman like Mia/Emma Stone couldn’t make babies with Sebastian/Ryan Gosling and had to get them somewhere else.
(Eva Mendez is a product of tabloid conspiracy and I know that in fact, like global warming, she totally doesn’t exist).
OK bye, I’m off, go watch this movie and like it.