Monday, January 16, 2017

La La Land: A Review and Some Emotional Musings, Too

Tonight Precocious Daughter and I went to the movies. We saw La La Land, partly because it's among this year's Best Picture hopefuls, which we try to see every year, and partly because it's been getting such incredible reviews that we weren't about to miss it.

If you've already seen it, you know that this post
is about to get all feelsy.
I don't know that I've ever seen a movie quite like this one, Drunkards. It's part old Hollywood musical, part modern rom-com, part Whiplash (not entirely surprising, as both films were written and directed by the brilliant Damien Chazelle). Beautifully staged and shot, I'm thinking the Academy won't be able to ignore it in categories like art direction, cinematography, and costume design. I mean, in addition to song, score, screenplay, acting, directing, and any other Oscar I may have neglected to mention.

The thing is, it's not a big, splashy movie musical. There are numerous gorgeous singing and dancing set pieces, but overall, the lines between comedy, drama, and show-stopper are blurred like delicate smudges on a pastel drawing. At its heart, La La Land is a basic boy with big dreams-meets-girl with big dreams story. It's funny, it's sad, it's almost (but not quite) corny in places. It's charming af, you guys.

And I want to own literally every thread of clothing
Emma Stone wears in this movie.

If you can't tell by the preceding, I loved this movie. PDaughter loved it even more than that. In fact, I'm going to let two observations of my beautiful daughter sum up the experience of seeing La La Land tonight.

First...When the credits rolled, she was crying. She was straight-up wiping tears from her big blue eyes. As I've written about previously for the website Knot So Subtle, PDaughter is not a cryer. It's not that she doesn't feel things deeply; it's just she inherited enough of my Germanic heritage to keep that shit squished beneath the surface most of the time. I may have seen her cry at a movie once or twice; it may have been Up or Inside Out (or that may have been me and I'm just projecting, come to think of it). So the fact that she was visibly moved and actually in tears at the end of La La Land means that it affected her deeply, and also that unless you're made of some kind of polycarbonate alloy, you'll probably tear up at the end, too.

Second...when we left the theatre (which was in a local mall), she was dancing. I mean, she was striking poses on the escalator and spinning down the corridors and trying her best to copy Ryan Gosling's footwork (which was on point, given his early days as a Mouseketeer). It was adorable, but also it triggered an extremely specific memory for me.

When I was 13 or 14, my dear friends Trips and Southside Shelly and I met at the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee to see a double feature of Fame and West Side Story. It was my first time to see either of these landmark movies, and my goodness, they blew me away. They moved me. I remember leaving that great old theatre with a song in my heart. I remember singing "When You're a Jet" and trying to emulate the jubilant dance steps of the passionate kids in the New York High School for the Performing Arts. Passion. I felt such passion that day. In these two disparate but very related films I remember embracing a fire for expression that I yearned for, even if I could never hope to fulfill it.

That probably sounds nerdy and somewhat pathetic to some of you. But 35 years on, I've never forgotten what those two movies stirred in me. And I totally recognized that fire when I saw it in PDaughter tonight after seeing La La Land.

And it made me so damn happy.

I'm beginning to realize that what parents need to leave to their children is not their morals, or their values, or their staid traditions. It's their passions.

If we can't pass those along to the next generation, then maybe we shouldn't have reproduced to begin with.

My 17yo daughter laughed, cried, and danced after seeing La La Land. By that measure alone, it deserves Best Picture. Because what greater service can a goddamned movie provide than to inspire such reactions?

Two or more thumbs up, Drunkards. And even if you don't agree with my review, I am confident in my feelings about this movie.

If La La Land doesn't produce such feelings in you, I fervently hope you find the film that does.

I wish you that depth of emotion.

Let me know if this or any other motion picture this year inspires you. OK?

1 comment:

  1. I am really looking forward to seeing it. Need a reason to dance...


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