La La Land

LetterboxD review link

When I was a kid, I couldn’t watch action movies too late in the evening because I’d get too riled up, bouncing off walls practicing my fake martial arts moves. La La Land had this effect on me. I came out of the theater, wanting to bounce off walls, singing and dancing.

I loved Whiplash, partially because of my love for jazz. That story, about a young, ambitious, musician felt grounded in Chazelle’s experience coming into himself as a young artist. La La Land, then, is the continuation of his artistic journey. Chazelle and his musical partner, Justin Hurwitz, love jazz. And they want others to love it too. This is a feeling I share with them. But unlike Seb, I’ve never been so presumptuous to think I can convert someone into a jazz lover. What I lack in jazz talent, Seb/Hurwitz/Chazelle possess in spades as musicians and film-makers. It excites me to imagine years of collaborations between them, if for no other reason, to get more lovely jazz music from their soundtracks.

The film itself, is not overly didactic or moralistic. It’s a rather simple exploration of the tension between love and ambition. About the compromises (like those that jazz musicians make on stage) that young artists have to make to realize their dreams. What Spotlight did for me last year through moralistic, intellectual, story-telling, this film did through aesthetic, romantic, story-telling. It reminded me of my love for, and the power of, good film-making. No 2 well-made films will capture an audience using the same methods. There are infinite ways to tell a story well. Chazelle and Hurwitz found magic with this version of this story.

For the half of this country that has been feeling destitute and cynical for the last month, this movie is a lovely way to re-light your inner candle. As ever, the best antidote to hopelessness is authenticity. This isn’t a perfect movie, but we don’t love things because they’re perfect.