Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling
I have never in my life been considered a Hollywood socialite. You know those guys who can get into clubs and see special screenings. But when I got the chance to see Ryan Gosling’s and Emma Stone’s La La Land at the Toronto International Film Festival, I felt like a super star. Now I get to tell you why this movie has generated so much Oscar buzz.
Violence/Scary Images: None.
Language/Crude Humor: Jesus and God are mentioned in vain. The S*** and F*** word are dropped.
Sexual Content: Ryan and Emma lie in bed together. They occasionally make out .
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Scenes of alcohol consumption. Many smokey bar scenes.
Positive Content: This movie is a classic “follow your dreams and reach for the stars” model. If you have a passion to do something it is expected that you drop everything until your goal is realized. The only drawback is that reaching your dream can sometimes ruin a relationship.
As Christians, should we follow the cliche of “chase your dreams?” It seems like a very noble pursuit. If you love something you should be able to chase it down and do something meaningful with it. I am not sure that is what God intended for our lives. There are some dreams and pursuits, while noble, are off God’s plan. Maybe that singing passion was not meant to rocket you to a career. Perhaps your love of video games isn’t meant for you to become a programmer. I don’t want to squash any dreams you may have, but I do want to remind you that God knows best about our lives. That means he gets first pick in what we do. Some doors are not meant to be opened, and I pray you don’t find that out the hard way.
Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress who longs to be on the stage. Her life is a series of casting audition rejections. She meets Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz piano player longing to start his own lounge to play pure jazz. They first saw each other at a L.A. party where Sebastian serenades Mia with a beautiful song on how their relationship would never work. Soon they are tap dancing and taking dates at observatories and rail stations. Despite being cruel to each other, they fall in love.
Sebastian convinces Mia to write and star in her own production. Mia talks Sebastian into joining a pop fusion jazz group to help pay some of the bills. They spur each other on to follow their dreams and see their vision come to life. Along the way, Mia gets discouraged with her dream and Sebastian compromises on his goals. They quickly learn that being together as a couple is very different than realizing their dreams. Can they make love work, while chasing their true vision?
Perhaps you miss the Golden Age of Hollywood when Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers broke out into a tap dance number. Maybe you pine for when songs broke out and people started to dance on a whim. That is the world of La La Land. From the start of the movie, there is a huge song and dance number on the Los Angeles highway. Drivers leave their cars and start singing, dancing, and flipping. I thought I was in a Coca-Cola teenager commercial. But the movie does not let up from there. Emma Stone sings her heart out about her goals, love life, and, discouragements. Ryan joins her with quirky songs and tap dance numbers about falling in love, giving up on the dream, and being lonely. This is set in current day Los Angeles, but the movie’s attitude is purely the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The movie is funny and sarcastic. Emma and Ryan blow off and troll each other in the most comical ways. Watching Sebastian try to cover for his disorganized life is worth a few chuckles. Mia finds Sebastian playing for an 80’s cover band and suggests that he plays the worst piano song of the 80’s. When they do fall in love, the movie shifts into a fantasy realm that can only be described as a French impressionist painting. The movie succeeds in having bright colors and beautiful set pieces. The ending of the movie becomes completely surreal, which complements the overly simple story.
Other stars make small appearances in the movie: J.K. Simmons plays Ryan’s boss at the lounge and John Legend is an aspiring jazz/pop artist. These small cameos are just as delightful.
The story is your basic “reach for the stars” message. Ryan and Emma encourage each other to make their dreams come true. When they do find out that their dreams are impossible to reach, they start to falter as a couple. They would make good accountability partners. The movie shows how our pursuit of what we want sometimes hurts those around us. When they finally achieve their goal of stardom, their life takes an unexpected turn into a much different path.
This movie is tons of fun, and I can see the soundtrack selling just as quickly as Frozen’s. It’s funny, hip, addicting, and very artsy. Keep an eye on this film.
+ Songs are joyful and heart wrenching + Surreal atmosphere mixed with the golden age of Hollywood + Emma's singing + Very funny when it wants to be
- Ryan's singing (sometimes)
The Bottom Line
Emma Stone sings her heart out about her goals, her love life, and her discouragements. Ryan joins her with quirky songs and tap dance numbers about falling in love, giving up on the dream and being lonely. This is set in current day Los Angeles, but the movie's attitude is purely the golden age of Hollywood.