How La La Land Increased my Love for Old Hollywood


“A bit of madness is key to give us new colors to see. Who knows where it will lead us? And that’s why they need us.”
Emma Stone, La La Land

I've always been a lover of old movies, musicals and music. I grew up listening to jazz and big band, falling in love with Gregory Peck and memorizing all the lyrics from Calamity Jane. I was even in a production of Guys & Dolls a few years ago that I absolutely adored, and recently had the opportunity to see 42nd Street Live. And if I haven't yet convinced you, I also own a record player and various vintage vinyl albums. Long story short, I love old Hollywood. I love the overall aesthetic and feel of the 40's and 50's, especially the music.


So when I heard about La La Land coming out, I was enthralled! Unfortunately I missed it when it came out in theaters ( I went to see the Batman Lego Movie, which I don't regret), but I watched it the moment it came on Netflix. It wasn't at all what I expected- it was so much better.



THE PLOT


This film follows aspiring actress Mia Dolan and musician/ audiophile Sebastian Wilder, as they try to reach for their dreams in the vast city of Los Angeles. Mia longs for a role on the silver-screen, while Sebastian is determined to one day open a jazz club. As they go off in their own directions, their relationship starts to face challenges, both of their separate dreams taring them from each other.


Those of you who have seen this movie know that Mia and Sebastian don't end up together by the end of the film. Five years go by, and Mia has married someone else and has a little girl. Both ended up reaching their goals, but they weren't able to do it together. And weirdly, I liked that the film went this direction. To me it was realistic, because each of their goals would inevitably send them into leading different lifestyles. Mia marries someone who shares her profession, allowing that stability a relationship with Sebastian would never have offered.


Mia and Sebastian might not end up together, but meeting each other changed each of their lives. Because of their encouragement in one another's goals, Mia lands her dream role in Paris, and Sebastian opens his jazz club under a much better name than Chicken on a Stick ( I get the reference but honestly, Seb's worked way better).

I think it goes to show that though some people may not be in our lives forever, they still have the power to change us immovably. The romance may not have worked, but the friendship and kinship they share remains intact. There will always be aspects of our lives we owe to people who didn't stay physically, but remain in our hearts. And I think this movie portrayed that reality in a very beautiful and meaningful way.


THE AESTHETIC


I loved the aesthetic of this movie. Everything from the costuming to the camera angles was perfect. My favorite scene is that wide shot of Mia and Sebastian walking through the Warner Bros. Lot. The entire scene is shot in one frame, as they walk along and see all this commotion around them, from sets being changed to actors getting in fights. It to me was a fantastic tribute to old Hollywood tropes, and kind of set you up for the overall feeling you would get from the movie.


The color scheme and costuming for this film was intelligently designed to have the look of a technicolor film, and it certainly worked. I adored the vintage-modern look of Stones' dresses, and the gentlemanly style of Gosling's suit and tie sets. The clothing was modern enough to be believable, but had that timeless look to it that vintage films are famous for.


THE INSPIRATION


When I first watched this film, I saw right away that it was inspired by all those musicals that weren't really musicals from the 40's and early 50's. Musicals were the norm during those years, so to sell well, some films would feature one or two musical numbers, and then it would be dialogue for the rest of the movie.

There are only eight musical numbers in this film fit with singing and choreography, and the rest of the songs are thematic and played throughout the movie. For a two hour movie, eight songs isn't a lot. But I personally loved the way the score for this movie was executed. It caters to the fans of all those old "musicals."

It particularly reminded me of Bundle of Joy, a movie musical starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. The music in this film is anything but memorable and there aren't many songs, but the story itself is charming and hilarious. It's a film that fits into the more niche vintage cinema of the time, and you can see the influence of that film style in La La Land. It caters to the niche culture within a film culture.


THE CONTROVERSY


Despite winning multiple Academy and Golden Glove Awards, this movie received quite a bit of criticism from movie goers. Many regarded the music as being unmemorable and that the pacing of the film was slow. In other words, they missed the point entirely. This film comes across the way it was meant to be filmed. It feels slow going because many vintage era films were paced that way. The music may seem a little forgettable because it's only supposed to contribute to a greater storyline, much like many musicals of the 40's and 50's.


And the fact is, unless you can appreciate the roots of this story and where it was inspired from, you aren't going to enjoy it. If you hate jazz, you aren't going to like it. This is a movie catered towards a very niche and unique market, towards individuals who prefer vinyl to digital download and black and white to HD. As well as being it's own story, La La Land tells the story of every vintage enthusiast and traditionalist obsessed with the past and all it's stereotypes. This film is a gemstone in the entertainment world, in an industry that's been suffering from remake-enitis, constantly basing films off of books. La La Land is it's own story, and its a shame that so many fail to see how wonderful it truly is.


This movie rekindled my love of swing dresses, saxophones and symbolism in place of dialogue. It's become one of my go-to films when I'm having a hard day or need something to make me feel optimistic. I highly encourage all of you who didn't enjoy this film to try it again, this time looking at it from a different perspective. Look at it from the perspective of the person who wrote it, because in the words of Mia Dolan:

“People love what other people are passionate about.”


What did you think of La La Land? Let me know in the comments below!

© 2018 by J.E Stanway. All Rights Reserved.