La La Land

Is the final musical number suggesting the possibility that things could have worked out between Seb and Mia if different choices were made? Or is it just an idle fantasy that disregards the obstacles put in the way of the relationship succeeding? The former is the sadder, more regretful ending. The latter is resigned, and ultimately happier. Given the parallels with her own life, it must be Mia's vision we're seeing. The touchstones are the same, only the man is different. And the sequence brushes aside the problem of separation – Seb just is magically able to come to Paris and find success there. Musicals are about externalising the passions and dreams we bottle up inside ourselves – the genre allows them to burst out and change the world around us. La La Land plays with that feeling of possibilities opening up, but it's grounded enough to retreat back into the real world. Some things in life work out, some things don't. The couple achieves artistic fulfilment and success, but not as a couple. 

La La Land uses the tricks of the genre but isn't contained by it. The story isn't just an excuse to move from one song to the next – there's quite a lot of traditional comedy and drama in between. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone probably can't compete with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but they are great actors, and their best work in the film is when they are acting rather than when they are singing and dancing. Chazelle's determination to use long takes to capture the songs is admirable and technically impressive, but for me the songs themselves are unmemorable. They are there to evoke memories of Old Hollywood and how that romanticism is folded into the romance in the film – two retromaniacs finding solace in their nostalgia for forgotten artforms. It's Gosling and Stone's portrayal of that relationship that makes the film work.

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