Movie Review

La La Land: That Rare Musical I Didn’t Hate

I suppose that title needs clarification. I love music; I eat, breathe, sleep movies – just not characters breaking into a song and dance routine every 15/20 minutes [reason why I'm not a fan of the traditional Bollywood storytelling format]. I went to Blockbuster Cinemas at Jamuna Future Park hesitantly but with an open mind.

Spoiler-free synopsis: A struggling actress-barista Mia [played by Emma Stone] and aspiring, purist jazz pianist Sebastian [Ryan Gosling] don't meet cute. In between having their dreams crushed, mutilated and nuked by the heartless muse that is the City of Angels, they find time to fall in love. Will they find their happy ending though?

When I said I went to the movie theatre with an open mind, I wasn't kidding; I didn't do any background check. Not knowing that La La Land was directed by Damien Chazelle [who also directed Whiplash] prior to the viewing was a good thing. There was no expectation, hence no bias. I wouldn't say it blew my mind. No, La La Land didn't offer anything new as far as the storyline is concerned but it changed the "just another musical" lane with its storytelling. I would describe it as "old Hollywood grandeur meets Broadway soul meets indie sensibilities".

Why did someone who is allergic to "song and dance movies" get bowled over by this one? For starters, the music directed by Justin Hurwitz. My biggest complaint with the typical Hollywood musical is that the songs are used as dialogues and independently – in most cases – they are not great music [in Bollywood's case, it's the opposite but then the songs have as much connection to the narrative as the current "leader of the free world" has to sanity]. For me, La La Land excelled on both grounds – the story struck a chord and I left the theatre humming "City of Stars".

More importantly though, this movie hits you hard in the feels. When Sebastian's popular vocalist friend [played by singer John Legend] mocks the former's purist attitude towards jazz and tries to convince him to soften up and be more "pop", you see how a musician with integrity breaks. When Mia goes to an audition, is interrupted after delivering the first line with a rude "Thank you", you see how brutal show business is.

La La Land will break your heart, even if your heart is made of coal [like yours truly]. It's not the ending that will leave you broken though; it's what could have been that's played out in a few seconds before the movie ends that will leave a dent.

Karim Waheed is the man responsible for SHOUT. Send your complaints to [email protected]


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