In Los Angeles, love breaks out between an aspiring actress and a pianist looking for success.
Perhaps it was the merit of The Artist, which proved that a movie shot like an old Hollywood picture (even if silent and in black and white), is still able to attract a large audience; perhaps it’s because the Stone-Gosling couple is the “coolest” thing a man could find in front of a camera; perhaps it could also have been Whiplash’s success (three Oscars), that gave credit to the young film director Damien Chazelle (who is only at his third feature film), but the fervour with which La La Land was welcomed in September at the Venice Film Festival was only a forewarning of the enthusiasm with which the spectators and the critics received the comeback of the musical genre on the big screen. From there it was only a matter of time until the film was awarded 7 Golden Globes, 9 Oscars, with 14 nominations (despite the terrible and unfair lost of the Best Picture award).
It is clear from the very first scene that it is a great comeback: a panoramic long shot, which involves with music and dance all drivers stuck in traffic in a road to Los Angeles. It’s in this dynamic explosion that we find the two protagonists, Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), two characters already defined by the two cars in which they sit: Mia is a practical girl, without too many illusions, and drives an average Japanese sedan. Sebastian, on the other hand, honks the horn of a convertible car from the seventies, while he obsessively plays over and over an excerpt from a jazz piece. Their first encounter has the typical characteristics of whom, while driving, wants the other to go to hell. The both of them fight and dream, in order to find a place in the world of success. Mia has (and how could it be otherwise, in such a self-referential movie?) a whole wall of her bedroom covered in an Ingrid Bergman blow-up, and the apartment she shares with others wannabe actresses has repetitive iconographical references to some blockbuster films. References and places that will continue throughout the whole movie, from the bar where Mia works as a waitress (a café in the Universal Studios), to the cinema theatre where Rebel Without a Cause is shown, to the observatory on the hills of Los Angele, a scenery that belongs to dozens of masterpieces. Their love story goes on just like this, in the middle of unceasing musical and cinematographic references, that one cannot but compare to movies such as Top Hat and Singing in the Rain. Gosling and Stone don’t have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ technique, however the understanding and daintiness don’t lack and the results are tender and captivating, especially in the most romantic moments, characterised by starry nights and dance moves that start on earth and start to soar in the air. This is how Mia goes from one audition to another, while Sebastian, who gets fired on Christmas Eve for not following the musical lineup, is hired by his old friend Keith (the singer John Legend), and, with a repertoire that certainly doesn’t belong to him, starts to gain success through night shows, tours and albums. The nostalgia for simpler and clearer times is reflected in choreographies that remind the years of Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris.
Hard times are about to come for Mia and Sebastian, and La La Land’s melancholic soundtrack doesn’t hide itself from those who look for it. Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds are long gone, but the voices of Mia and Sebastian and of their tender love story, make them seem a little closer to us.
Beppe Musicco (Translation: Benedetta Volpe)