At the end of every year, cinemas are bombarded by a slew of lighthearted, family friendly rom-coms aimed at making profit out of family outings and gatherings.
There’s the family friendly christmas movies. And then there are the standard, run-of-the-mill rom-coms. Nothing like ending off the year with a little warm and fuzzy love, right?
The recipe for the standard year-end rom-com hardly ever changes. We all know how it will turn out. We expect to feel happy leaving the theatre.
And at first glance, La La Land seems to be that festive rom-com that will round up the year.
Why? Because it stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (remember their chemistry in Crazy, Stupid Love?). And it’s a musical, no less.
So while I expected to be entertained, I was certainly not counting on the movie to leave any sort of deep impression. Festive rom-coms always feel like a bout of sugar rush anyway.
The opening scene, which starts off with a flash mob set against the backdrop of a huge traffic jam, makes the movie feel immediately like a Disney production.
The only angry person in this massive jam is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling Jazz musician who has a rude run-in with Mia (Emma Stone), an actress-wannabe on the way to her waitressing job.
And that’s how our fated lovers meet. As Mia and Sebastian struggle to make ends meet while pursuing their dreams in Los Angeles, they meet repeatedly, to their displeasure. A whirlwind romance quickly ensues, supplemented by a healthy dose of feel-good song singing that will have you tapping your toes along to the beat.
Everything seems pretty and perfect – two down-and-out individuals find one another as their passion rubs off each other.
The first half of the movie feels like you’re watching a Disney movie come to life. Or perhaps a better description would be this — High School Musical: 10 years later. The scene where Mia and Seb first spend a night out is absolutely magical, made complete with a song and dance number, of course.
But then the reality of life strikes, and that’s when you get over the shallow sense of happiness from the Disney-like magic and start getting drawn into the storyline with the rawness of Mia and Sebastian’s emotions.
As dreams go up in smoke, along with their purity and naivety, their pain is quite palpable — because we’ve all experienced aching disappointment in our lives. It also helps that both actors’ strong acting make the protagonists’ emotions very realistic to the audience.
Beyond the push and pull of emotions from the storyline, the music and dance elements have the beat of an old Hollywood musical, which adds to the overall charm of the movie.
Whether Mia and Sebastian are swinging to jazz, waltzing away or singing their thoughts out loud, this old Hollywood charm turns each musical scene into a slice of fantasy, toggling between reality and magic for the audience, which turns into an intriguing exercise.
Visually, the movie is enchanting. The same old Hollywood magic shows through Mia and Sebastian’s immaculate outfits — every twirl of Mia’s bright, solid coloured dresses and every inch of Sebastian’s three piece suits were stunning, adding to the dramatic ambience in the scenes. If you are a fashion buff, you’d have lotsa fun just looking at the costumes because they’re. Just. So. Glamorous.
There’s a lot of light and colour play too that amps up the dramatic factor. Like watching a stage musical, there are spotlights, shadows, colour themes and ridiculously perfect scenery that changes in the blink of an eye — as if it was done with the flick of a backdrop switch.
All in all, what I expected to be a quick dose of happiness turned out to be a real treat for the senses, as I exited the theatre with a light bounce in my step, pondering over Mia and Sebastian’s choices. I tried doing some of Mia’s dance moves on the way home. Even after a few days, I found my mind wandering to the final, epic dance scene in the film.
And no, it doesn’t have a Disney movie ending. That should say something.