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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Living in “La La Land”

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling lead the cast of this Oscar-nominated musical (Illustration by Michaul Williams ’18).

The celebrated musical offers a delightful combination of reality and romanticism

With a historic achievement of 14 Oscar nominations, “La La Land” is certainly a must-see film. This modern musical created for the big screen was released on Dec. 9, but it has not quite finished charming viewers in the theater.

“La La Land” tells the story of two people who, after multiple chance encounters, help each other reach their goals in spite of reality’s roadblocks. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician with the dream of opening his own jazz club, while Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring, but unsuccessful actress waiting to be discovered. Gosling and Stone do not disappoint in either their talent or chemistry.

Despite being set in modern day, this movie succeeds in transporting us to a different era by creating the image of more romanticized and simpler times. Sebastian sets this tone early on by questioning  what is wrong with being romantic.

Between Sebastian’s passion for reviving jazz and Mia’s lifelong love for classic movies, nostalgia plays a substantial role in the lives of both leading characters. The vibrant colors and old-fashioned style of the costumes and sets enhance the feel and appearance reminiscent of old movies.

The theatrical elements make the film truly delightful. The beautiful score, singing talents of Stone and Gosling, the juxtaposition of reality and romanticism, and choreography fit for the stage support the motif of living life in an imaginary “La La Land.” The film masterfully portrays both everyday activities converted into dance numbers and spontaneous bursts of song and dance, my favorite of which features Gosling and Stone bantering back and forth in both lyrics and choreography over their incompatibility.

The depth of the plot comes from the conflict between the real world and their fantasies. One moment Mia and Sebastian are singing a lighthearted duet, but then reality interrupts in the form of a familiar iPhone ringtone or a smoke detector alarm. The contrast between the whimsical musical sequences and the “real life” scenes emulate the characters’ desire for success and romance versus their struggle against the difficulties of reality.

Continuing this theme, Mia and Sebastian have a charming, yet realistic romance. At first, it is refreshing to see them boosting each other up, but then they face reality when their individual goals clash. By the end, despite the rough patches, the audience is  left  with the message that people come into our lives and make an impression on us and our futures, no matter how long they stay.

The film simultaneously appeals to our childlike imaginations—picturing a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam turning into a charmingly choreographed flash mob—and makes us question where we are going in life and what it takes to achieve our dreams. Through the two ambitious artists, the film touches on how failure, hardship, and sacrifice are  natural steps  to the path of success.

Overall, “La La Land” succeeds in uplifting the audience, while at the same time offering provoking ideas about life and love, If you are a fan of musicals, this one surely does not disappoint.

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