I could be wrong about this, but I think the last time I watched a film more than twice in the cinema was in 1971 when I went to see ‘Love Story’ three times in the same week:
I wept buckets and thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen, though years later when I watched it again I decided it was the biggest load of tripe ever. La La Land is a kind of love story too, though in many ways it’s not so easy to write about as its appeal is somewhat nebulous. What is clear, however, is that my admiration is shared by millions, and it has been nominated for an unprecedented number of Oscars: 12 in total – the ceremony is on 26th Feb –
I haven’t quite seen it three times yet; I went by myself last week, tried to go with my son at the weekend and then went with OH last night. It did not disappoint on a second viewing; and as we came out I was wondering exactly how to convey my reactions.
Firstly, it’s the kind of film you can’t imagine being made any more. I don’t just mean a musical – there have been musicals including Mama Mia, which I walked out of after ten minutes – but a musical which is neither ironical nor cheesy. It’s quite a feat to pull off in these cynical days; and part of its appeal is that somehow the music and dance are woven almost seamlessly into the plot. With most musicals there’s some action; then the characters pause a little, the music gets louder and you know that here comes another set-piece dance routine. Not so with La La Land. For a start, one of the characters is a musician, which helps weave music into the narrative. But the film kicks off with a line of cars outside LA, stuck in a traffic jam. Suddenly one person gets out and starts to dance and one by one all the others join him, dancing on the car bonnets, on the road, on the roofs, on the hard shoulder – everywhere. It sounds cheesy but it’s actually hypnotic: and I think the reason people love it so much is that it’s a happy film. It’s happy without being cheesy and it’s innocent without being naive. It’s not a sentimental or rose-tinted love-story but neither is it dystopian or cynical: and to my mind one of its best features was that the actors are interesting rather than beautiful. Although the woman is glamorous (increasingly so as she becomes more successful) the camera never ogles her. She is stylish and interesting: she is not a sex object.
The plot is somewhat thin, but it’s not about the plot; it’s about our emotional engagement with the characters and their passions. It’s about not giving up on your dream – which is something I can totally relate to as I’ve never given up on mine. I don’t want to tell you any more about the storyline, not because of spoilers but because it’s not really important. What matters is your engagement, exuberance and sheer – well, happiness. And from the first moment I was hooked.
I know just enough to be able to tell that the cinematography is stunning – but not enough to tell you exactly how: if I ever get to see it with Daniel I’ll get back to you on that. There is not a bum note anywhere – in the settings, the music, the acting, the dancing – nowhere. It is just about damn perfect.
Go watch. See it at the cinema because a good film deserves that.