I’m not often a fan of romance films. I find the chemistry shallow, and the progress of the relationship way too rushed. I mean, the couples mostly fight for drama and end up getting together in the end anyways. I don’t see a point in watching something so fake and dull. So when I planned on watching La La Land, a musical romance directed by Damien Chazelle, I expected to leave it thinking it was okay.
Boy, was I wrong.
It’s so strange, I’ve never been touched like this by an onscreen romance before. First off, the couple have natural problems that they solve in a realistic way. (Looking at you, Singin’ in the Rain. Sure, Kathy was just lying about not liking Don’s movies. Real original.) No overblown drama or fights. Their relationship moves at a slow pace, fit in the movie by the majority of the film taking place over one year. So seeing them get closer and closer feels right, because you know they’ve had experiences together we don’t get to see.
Second, one main reason I was interested in watching the movie was because I’d heard it had beautiful cinematography. And it does. The movie uses shadows as dead space to emphasize what’s really there, synonymous to spotlights on a stage. It has rich purples, strong blacks, fun greens, bright yellows. . . It’s a very beautiful thing to witness. And the dance scenes are very different compared to some other modern musicals. Nowadays, there are more cuts in scenes and so, less dancing and more fancy effects. But this movie certainly delivers in Broadway-like performances that show what musicals are all about.
Third, the music! I’m listening to it now as I type this review. I still tear up listening to some of the powerful, orchestral rhythms. I will admit, I was not as attached to it as I am now the first time I heard it during the movie. Rather, the soundtrack has grown on me after watching the entire movie and gathering a feel for it. Getting that out of the way, I do love the songs. I find it incredible how the main theme can feel soft, magical, or hollow based on how it is played. Altogether, the music, performances, and cinematography make something feel so grand, yet so intimate. Again, this movie really touched me personally. It made average dreams feel special. Then, that was the real point of the movie, instead of romance. The pursuit of dreams.
Now, this movie certainly isn’t perfect. Some of the song lyrics are sappy or repetitive, and the actors’ voices aren’t exactly Broadway-worthy. But one could argue the movie is supposed to be amateurish, as the plot is about people living in Los Angeles struggling to make it big. And the ending . . . is arguably satisfying. I’m still trying to fully come to terms with it.
Regardless, this movie is for those who love or hate romances, because it’s not about that. It’s about the fools who dream, and we’re all them deep down.
Teen Advisory Board (TAB) member