La La Land ★★★★½

What does it mean to assign 5 stars to La La Land? It seems a lot more weighted now than it might've been a few weeks ago, before all the awards show nominations and the bubble of backlash that's beginning to form. It's impossible to go into La La Land without expectations, because of all of this. 14 Oscar nominations is a lot, and it's daunting to go into a film that many critics seem to have already inserted into their personal pantheon of timeless classics. Of those who like La La Land less, there seem to be two main arguments, one about lack of originality (which I personally can't connect with) and the other about diversity and the erasing of the history of jazz (I can't comment on this - I'm white and I don't know anything about jazz, take this as a cop-out if you want) I was scared to go into La La Land because of everything hanging over it. When the film started, I almost immediately regretted having read or heard anything about the film before going in: every scene that had been featured in trailer or promotional material was a scene that I wanted to experience for the first time in the cinema.

The opening made me tear up. I'm a sentimental film-goer, but there's something about the texture of that scene, the ineffable joy of it. It's catchy, not just the song but the feeling, and though the film swiftly moves on to more real problems, that feeling never really left me (neither did the tear that popped up again very regularly) The epilogue had me sobbing so hard that I missed things because I was too busy crying.

Is La La Land so popular and acclaimed because it's so cathartic? On the one hand, it seems like the perfect antidote to today's political climate, with the bright colours and set design and charming leads. On the other hand, it doesn't shy away from melancholia either. I sobbed, and at the end just wanted to go back and experience it all again. The people in my cinema applauded.

Part of the way through the film, I became worried about Ryan Gosling's character, Seb, who toes the line between charming and obnoxious and clearly at times oversteps it. He annoyed me, but then there's the scene in which Emma Stone's Mia and he have an argument, and both of them get taken down a notch, in different ways. Though the film dabbles in magical realism, the realism is as important as the magic, if not more, and their relationship felt genuine and they levelled each other out in a really satisfying way.

I don't really understand the criticism that the songs all sound a bit the same - isn't that the point? La La Land is built on echoes, narratively and sonically and in the way the characters and situations evolve. It's one of the nicest things about it, it feels so cohesive and thoughtful.

Gah, I really loved La La Land, and I can't wait to see it again, and maybe then I'll give it 5?

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