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The student news site of Londonderry High School

Lancer Spirit Online

Why everyone should watch ‘La La Land’

Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) on the ‘La La Land’ poster. Photographer: (fair use image from Warner Bros. Studios)

As the camera pans down to a crowded highway, the cacophony of beeping horns and angry cars filling your ears. The seemingly mundane experience then shifts into an up-tempo opening number, and the viewer begins to witness a beautiful piece of art. 

La La Land was a hit movie musical released in 2016, earning 33 major nominations and 18 awards such as the Academy Award for best cinematography, and the BAFTA for best film. It’s set in the “City of Stars” AKA present day Los Angeles. The story follows Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian Wilder, a jazz pianist. 

Mia’s dream is to become an actress in blockbuster movies. She works at a cafe on the Warner Brothers lot, selling coffee to major actors and people in the business. She spends most of her free time auditioning for any opportunities she can find. Throughout the movie, Mia experiences many hardships of being a struggling  actress. She gets interrupted during auditions when a casting director gets bored, wants coffee, or simply decides they’ve seen enough. She fantasizes about finding that ‘Someone in the Crowd’ who can take her dreams to the next level.

Sebastian dreams of creating his own jazz club. He gets by playing small gigs at restaurants and parties, but he struggles to stick to the set. For example, Sebastian is recruited to play a Christmas gig, with clear instructions to only play Christmas music. However, as soon as the piano overtakes him, he finds himself caught up in a heart wrenching jazz melody.

Though the two have different paths, life forces them together one night as Sebastian plays at a restaurant. Mia tries to talk to him, but he blows her off. Despite the rocky start though, the two are continuously brought together until they accept that maybe they’re meant to be together after all. Mia hates jazz, but Sebastian makes it his goal to change her mind and show her the beauty of it.

Though sparkling musical numbers and a classic Hollywood feel are some of the movie’s main attributes, there is more hidden brilliance to La La Land than the glitz and glam that you first see on the screen.

One of the most important tools the director Damien Chazel uses in La La Land to convey a deeper message is music. ‘Mia and Sebastian’s theme’ is heard in one of the first scenes when Sebastian plays in a restaurant. This piano piece becomes increasingly important throughout the film. It’s heard in many variations: piano, cinematic, soft, loud and blaring. It signifies the growth and importance of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship, from the first time it’s heard in the restaurant, to the closing credits.

Another seemingly simple but significant moment Damien Chazel uses is the seemingly perfect Hollywood ending vignette: the closing circle that signifies the end of a movie. It occurs about halfway through the film, and defines both halves. In the first half of the film, all the colors are primary. There are bright block reds, yellows, and blues. It signifies the happy carefree aura of the first half of the movie. When the vignette closes and the second half begins, the colors switch to more primary colors. Greens, purples and pastel tones show the viewer that the characters are getting comfortable with each other, whether that is good or bad.

The style of the songs is another use of the vignette. Before the circle closes, all of the songs are typical movie musical songs. They seem to come out of nowhere. Big musical songs like ‘Another Day of Sun’ and ‘Someone in the Crowd’ are large dance numbers that the characters indulge in, but aren’t first hand aware that they are singing. They follow a typical movie musical pattern of abrupt and Broadway-like songs. After the vignette reopens however, all the characters become aware of the songs they are singing. For example Mia attends Sebastian’s concert, and sees him perform one of his songs live. Mia goes to an audition where she has to sing a song, another piece she’s aware she’s performing. This represents the growth of the characters from their yearning to their thoughtfulness.

La La Land is so much more than it seems at first glance. It’s layered and colorful and beautiful and the perfect film for any movie lover to watch.

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About the Contributor
Michaela Horan
Michaela Horan, Copy Chief
This is Senior Michaela Horan's second year on staff at the Lancer Spirit, and this year she is the position of copy chief. She's the author of the Rolling Hills series, the first of which was published in 2021. She enjoys writing music and doing theater and loves being on staff.

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Why everyone should watch ‘La La Land’