La La Land: A Treatise
A lot of people dismiss musicals and I’m not sure why. When I fall in love, I want to burst into song; don’t you? Maybe it is the cotton candy and balloon colors, I don’t know. I happen to love the musical genre.
I’m proud to love the genre. It is an avenue to tackle some of harshest subjects and deal with them on the stage or film. Maybe in ways that could not be explored in any other way.
The first musical, Showboat, based on an Edna Ferber novel was about racism. Think about that. The very subject tackled in this then new genre was very tricky. To think that this musical, in 1928 dealt with issues still here today in 2016 is astonishing.
South Pacific won a Pulitzer prize for, again, dealing with racism. One of the songs is “You’ve Got To Be Taught”.
Cabaret and The Sound of Music dealt with the horrors of Nazi Germany; never forget.
Fiddler on the Roof was about Russian Jews being forced from their homes.
My point is that not all musicals are fluff and folly. Chicago was brilliant in that it could use the deluded fantasies of a character to show the bedazzled show numbers to very much contrast the reality.
A recent article on the websites is an interview with an Oscar Voter in which he was asked:
Why is everyone so crazy for La La Land?
I’m trying to figure it out. I think because it’s set in L.A. and it’s about the industry and they’re all narcissists. It got more nominations than The Godfather. How can they compare it? They’re mediocre singers and dancers, and there’s not one good song in the movie, as opposed to Singin’ in the Rain or other classic musicals. It’s a poor imitation. I’ll be embarrassed when it wins.
Herein lies the rub. Our Voter did not know what he was looking at, what he was watching in La La Land. He even says that he’s trying to figure it out, doesn’t understand why La La Land got so many nominations. I’m embarrassed for him.
The whole point of La La Land is that we are flawed. Two characters meet, fall in love, sing about it (who wouldn’t?) and then choose their career over their relationship. And are happy about it in the end. This is a harsh statement on a harsh reality in the world we live in now.
The choice to make it a musical to tell this story is brilliant. Our characters are not perfect or polished, they can’t dance well together but they want to! It is Los Angeles, of course she has a pair of tap shoes in her bag!
People are not perfect like in traditional Hollywood musicals. La La Land uses the musical to contrast it with Singing in the Rain. You and I can not dance like Gene Kelly. But we do fall in love. It doesn’t always work out. Which is one reason the choice to make it a musical is so strong.
The tough question: is finding love better than finding a career? That is the question that this movie asks. And a question that many people make every day in every walk of life.
La La Land deserves it’s nominations because it tackles difficult personal relationship challenges that we all face. And shows a happy ending even if it is not a cottage with a picket fence.
Of course we want them to fall in love and live happily ever after. Still, there are other happy endings in life as well.