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La La Land: A Study on Perseverance and Individuality

April 17, 2017 Film Reviews

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)

 

La La Land is an invigorating and romantic love letter to Hollywood. Its casts’ performances are natural and relatable, and the film features one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film ever. It is a triumph, a colorful joy to witness, and is, in the opinion of this reviewer, an instant, genre-redefining classic.

The last great modern musical I saw was Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge. After that film was released, droves of choir and theatre kids at my high school were singing songs and re-enacting scenes from that film. Now, I am sure there are a number of scenes from La La Land being re-enacted in the living rooms and high school stages everywhere by young would-be performers and, in the words of one of the film’s signature songs, “the dreamers.”

The thesis of La La Land is hard to define. On one hand, it is a study on perseverance, as it profiles two characters in LA who are pursing their dreams into their late 20s. On the other hand, it is about being true to yourself and using your unique qualities to carve your own path. The character’s journeys both remind me of the filmmakers who distribute on YouTube or the bands who self-release their own albums, forgoing the typical studio “systems.” Emma Stone’s character Mia wants to be a famous actress, while Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian wants to own his own Jazz club. Both characters pursue their goals in different ways and struggle with notions of ‘selling out’ and forgoing their dreams for what is stable.

This aspect of the film struck a chord with me, as I’m sure it did with many aspiring artists, about the balance between being true to yourself as an artist and being labeled as a ‘corporate sell out.’ But one aspect of the film that didn’t appeal to me was how it defined “success.” Being able to flex my God-given creative muscles and create is, yes, such an amazing gift and opportunity; but serving my wife and being a great father is so much more meaningful to me. That is my success, regardless of what I have contributed to the world creatively. If, at the end of my days, I’ve left behind caring and compassionate people who love God and others, and I haven’t directed five features, my life has still been a success.

The main characters both encourage each other to not give up in the face of constant rejection. Near the end of the film, Emma Stone’s character poignantly expresses the frustation felt by all undiscovered actors…“I can’t do this anymore…five years of going from audition to audition…they laugh at me while I’m crying, order a sandwich in the middle of my scene, and walk out to see a room full of girls that look just like me only prettier. I’m done.”

La La Land is an homage to those brave souls who go to Hollywood to pursue their dreams, and the film offers us that very rare point of view of what two optimistic idealists must do to maintain and survive the rigors of LA.

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La La Land: A Study on Perseverance and Individuality

17 Apr 2017

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   La La Land is an invigorating and romantic love letter to Hollywood. Its casts’ performances are natural and relatable, and the film features one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film …

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