'Whiplash' director Damien Chazelle's homage to the underappreciated art of jazz and music found in modern day LA leaves you feeling nostalgic for the Golden Age of Hollywood, whilst also managing to create a great presence of predictability and cliché throughout. Taking an unprecedented £6 million within the first weekend of UK release and favourite to win Best Picture at the Oscars in February, I'm asking is 'La La Land' truly a "masterpiece"? Can you confidently compare Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman of 'Casablanca'? I don't know about you, but I almost felt instantly obliged to think that Chazelle's ode to olden day musicals is "ground-breaking" purely because of hundreds of 5 star reviews making you believe you should be ashamed to think otherwise.
'La La Land' is indeed a warm-hearted, uplifting, feel good film and Chazelle's contemporary slant on the modern day musical is refreshing. It's also stimulating to see young people in the 'social media' generation share a common passion for the survival of old fashioned arts and values. With Mia's room plastered in retro film posters (but ironically has never seen 'Rebel Without a Cause') and Sebastian's love for a stool once owned by Hoagy Carmichael, the pair aspire careers in industries that essentially are no longer appreciated or even available in the present day. Unfortunately, more often than not, Chazelle throws in 'Singin' in the Rain' and 'Casablanca' references, old moie posters and vintage Hollywood film sets purely to play up the nostalgia factor in order to make us think we relate to them and to long for a time that is no longer valued in the present day. The character of Seb, a highly annoying music snob, does a terrible job of attempting to make the audience passionate about the preserving of jazz music by condescending Mia, who admits she doesn't like jazz and takes her on dates to jazz bars thereafter.
Mia, a struggling barista-come-actress, who somehow can afford to drive a Prius and live in an a decent apartment in LA, dreams of becoming a famous actress and Seb, an aggressive jazz snob who's tired of seeing 'samba/tapas' joints around town and longs to open his own jazz bar, both represent modern propaganda for the 'American Dream'. The film is a corny testament to dreaming and makes you believe that if all American's follow their aspirations they can somehow manage to go from barista to famous actress in Paris who receives her flat whites and skinny lattes for free - which is extremely cliché as we see this happen in the beginning of the film with another famous actress. It's highly un- realistic.
However, Chazelle's bittersweet ending creates a deeper meaning for the dreamers. "How are you going to be a revolutionary if you're such a traditionalist?" Keith (John Legend) questions Seb's passion for the outdated art of jazz. This illuminates the price Mia and Seb will have to pay for following their passions that no longer hold a place in the LA industry which eventually we see in the epilogue. Mia and Seb don't end up together unlike every other typical Hollywood happy ending, which again is quite refreshing, but ultimately the debate remains open on whether love is more important than dreaming.