Old-school song and dance about New Age love with La La Land

AFTER watching this movie, you can’t help but do a jig or two yourself. Music and dance fill the hall from the opening scene with the song, “Another Day of Sun”, set in the middle of a traffic jam along a highway. The scene is seamless, as if done in one camera shot, and the wide-screen effect gave technicolour new depth.

Choreographer Mandy Moore, of television series “So You Think You Can Dance” fame, has given the cast solid groundwork for the dances, right down to the tap style. The opening scene must have taken plenty of logistic work and rehearsals, but she pulled it off.

La La Land is more than the sweet hijinks of modern musicals like High School Musical, Hairspray, Les Miserable or Step Up!, but a little less than the MGM classics with legendary Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ incredible hot-footing style.

But the movie is surely a tribute to those cinema gems with Gene Kelly’s Singin’ In The Rain, Marilyn Monroe’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Barbra Streisand’s A Star Is Born and the like.

In fact, there are scenes reminiscent of these movies in La La Land, like when the lead male Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling, The Nice Guys, Ides of March) dances on a pier with a streetlamp at the back, or with leading lady Mia (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spiderman 2) on a hill amid a starry city and streetlamps (hence, the song “City of Lights” a.k.a. Los Angeles). Or, a Dirty Dancing moment when Mia sees Sebastian at a gig, and wiggles like Jennifer Grey did.

Gosling and Stone have acted together before, memorably too, in the 2011 “Crazy, Stupid, Love”.

In La La Land, they have a wonderful scene at an observatory, where they are “swept up into the stars” and dance up there. Amazing to see, really, so kudos to Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren, the man behind American Hustle and Joy. Production notes state that Sandgren shot on 35mm film to capture the richness of the colour of the light that digital video cannot give you unless added during post production.

While Gosling as Mia has an audition scene which could have been a game changer, it’s so obvious that the musicals of the 1950s has captured the imagination of director Damien Chazelle (of Whiplash fame) — from the lovely swirly dresses, and the dances to the mood – rather than the drama per se.

Basically, La La Land follows the story of Sebastian and Mia, two wanna-be famous young ones in L.A. Theirs is a rocky relationship, interspersed by song and dance, wracked by ambition.

It’s not a happy ending like in the musical movies of old.

This is a millennial love story, but one will find it difficult to follow the story towards the end because the emotions of the characters play second fiddle to the jazzy music, with artiste John Legend playing, well, a jazz musician, which is the true core of the movie.

That said, dance is a beautiful way of telling a love story and forms the second tier in driving La La Land.

My advice: Just go with the flow.

** pic courtesy of gsc movies


The review appeared in the New Straits Times. Plse read further at



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