Last night, after a long day of shooting and class, I went to the Broadway to go see La La Land (Chazelle).
I went in expecting a fun, glitzy romp in an idealized L.A., full of unrealistically beautiful people doing glamorous things. Honestly, that's exactly what I got.
So why did it feel so fulfilling?
With every crescendo of the soundtrack, every clack of a tap shoe, every clink as Ryan Gosling's hand tickled the ivories, I became more and more enraptured. As Mia & Sebastian's lives inched closer together, my heart raced. And with every moment of conflict between the two, I teetered between total joy and abject despair.
I don't gush. Really. I like to think I keep my head straight at most times, especially during movies. So why did I let this one carry me away?
It's because I wanted to escape.
I won't get too political, but this country, hell, the world, is in a state of absolute turmoil. Clashing political narratives, the duality of truth, racial tension, economic uncertainty, globalization, a whole pot of messy, complicated issues. All of these things are important, even vital to how we live our lives. But it is exhausting. Sometimes, our hearts and minds need a break.
La La Land provides the exact kind of rest that we all need. A story of a man, a woman, and dreams. Perfectly timed musical numbers, subtle breakings of the 4th wall (such as the donning of tap shoes), and stunning color work all create a land that's at once real and fantasy. A land of real hopes and dreams and problems, but without any of political messaging that often carries other films.
Looking back at America's cinematic past, it's clear that film attendance is closely tied to political turmoil. In 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, over 3 out of 5 Americans attended the movies weekly. And again, during the height of World War II, weekly movie attendance peaked at around 60%. Films were the one place where people could forget unemployment, starvation, and sons on the front, and fly off to another reality.
As if clairvoyant, Damien Chazelle wrote the perfect script for 2016-2017. Maybe 10, even 5 years ago, La La Land would have been another film in a sea of modest returning, unmemorable films. In 2017, though, it's a place where we can escape the noise and mess of our real lives. Sure, we all have to jump back into the mix again and fight for whatever we may believe in. But in La La Land, for a brief 128 minutes, we can take a break in a world where love is real, dreams come true, and jobless artists can magically pay rent in L.A.