Why I love & hate La La Land at the same time

'La La Land' or 'Blah Blah Land'? I can't decide. Here's why.

By Hui Xin


La La Land broke records at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, picked up 11 nominations at the 2017 BAFTAs, and it’s bound for more glory at this year’s Academy Awards.

Starring Emma Stone as Mia and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, La La Land follows two dreamers who meet and fall in love while struggling to pursue their dreams and figuring out whether love or a lifetime in the spotlight is more important.

Why I love.

The cinematography

Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren did everything right to capture present Emma Stone’s struggling actress and Ryan Gosling’s downcast jazz musician against a modern-day Los Angeles backdrop that reflects a fairytale-like splendour. The colour block theme and post-pro colour correction edit throughout the scenes had everything going for the movie. The somewhat schizophrenic landscape and mix of beauty and nature and city is exactly what you’ll find in L.A as soon as the sunsets. Makes me wanna go there right now to witness the incredible skies myself.

The dancing

Hats off to Stone and Gosling who aren’t actually dancers but still looked like the new Rogers and Astaire.

The chemistry

The chemistry of Gosling and Stone – now on their third run round the block together – has been compared to that of golden age greats. Thank God for their crackling chemistry which made up for their slightly less-than-average singing skills.

The Songs (But not the singing)

La La Land’s tunes seem to be real ear-worms, judging by the amount of incidental humming you can hear. But how classic are they? They’ll be stuck in your head for days. My favourite? City of Stars!

The only problem is that – the singing isn’t all that great, and the piano playing wasn’t real either.

The single takes

There are some amazing splashy crackers in La La Land – most notably the opening freeway number and the magic-hour tap banter after the party. I was personally blown away.

Cute outfits

Hey, I’m a girl after all. Let me just say that all of Emma’s outfits were TO DIE FOR (except for the blue bridesmaid-like dress that she and her friends wore to the party).

Why I hate:

The singing.

But that’s not important.

The message

Both La La Land and Whiplash are films concerned with what single-minded creative ambition does to your capacity to succeed – and your romantic ties. They suggest that grit and an uncompromising approach are compulsory. They also imply there’s something incompatible about lasting relationships and creative drive. Is this specific to showbiz? Can normal people like us even relate?

On a side note, the New Yorker published two reviews of the Ryan Gosling vehicle — one of which was scathing, while others criticised it for its lack of diversity — especially for a film that focuses so heavily on jazz music. Which I totally agree because everything seemed to center around these two love bugs, which to me was kind of boring. Some have also cried Manic Pixie Dream Boy on Gosling’s portrayal of musician Sebastian.

It’s been called ‘the greatest love letter ever written to Los Angeles’. I can’t really agree because Emma seemed pretty happy with her new lover if you ask me.

The alternate ending

What to make of the medley extravaganza that shows how the relationship might have panned out had Seb reacted differently after being fired, rejected Legend’s offer, shown up to the play, and came along to Paris?

It would have unfolded, it seems, pretty much identical to Mia’s relationship with her new, bland-but-nice husband: House, superstardom, baby. What conclusion can we draw from that? That all relationships are predestined to end the same way? Or that Seb and Mia could – and should – have made it work?

As a person who tries not to build her entire life on romantic relationships, this really annoyed me. Could your romantic relationships really change the course of your life so drastically? Can a choice to be with someone stop you from living out your dreams? And the most important but scary question: In order to live out your dreams, do you really have to sacrifice the person you love?

The ending scenes made me reflect on all of these things at once, creating a fight or flight response — which in my case, seemed to come out as, “try not to reveal your true emotions because your friends loved the show so much”.

Even in a movie filled with magical realism, in the end the leads still couldn’t be together and achieve their dreams, so what does that mean for my world? If Hollywood couldn’t do it, what hope do I have?