When you climb up to the Griffith Observatory at night, you can’t really see the stars anymore. The light pollution from the sprawl below, night blinds you to their radiance. Located on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood, the observatory has long since ceased to be a good place to observe the heavens, yet it still remains an iconic LA sight and it does have an excellent view of the city. It is no wonder then that writer-director Damien Chazelle keeps returning to it, to set many of his scenes, in his delightful new movie La La Land.
The movie’s tag line, “Here’s to the fools who dream”, speaks to the fact that the movie is not dedicated to two star-crossed lovers, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), but really to their dreams. Sebastian is a pianist who wants to play jazz and have his own club, but when we first meet him, he is killing time with gigs playing Jingle Bells. Mia is an aspiring actress, who in-between a gauntlet of auditions and call backs, tortures herself on the Warner Brothers lot as a barista to the stars, so close to her dream, yet so far, just another face in the crowd. Sebastian captures the essence of their struggles, when he describes LA, “This town worships everything and values nothing.”
Overlaying all of this melancholy is Justin Hurwitz‘s score. This clip of “City of Stars“, is a good example of his music. La La Land is an homage to the golden age of the musical. Between its use of CinemaScope and choreography that Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly could once have trotted, the movie looks like a beautiful anachronism, but is overlaid with modern sensibilities. It is a romantic movie, but the true love that Chazelle shows us is not between Sebastian and Mia, but the love that he has for Los Angeles and all those fools who dream there.
We said so long to Dan today and dropped him off at the airport. This time, after living for six years in La-La-Land, he will not be wending his way west. He left LA, but he hadn’t returned home to give up. Instead, he exchanged the LA scene for Brooklyn, living the same dream, just in a different locale. If La La Land teaches you anything, it is that dreaming is only foolish, if you give it up.