This Christmas Day was a little bit different for me. It was the first as an officially separated dad. Last year, while my former Queen and I had already decided to part ways (amicably, by the way – she’s a good lady and we get along great), we were still living in the same house with our little princess, and while we spent the afternoon apart, we still had the morning and evening together. This year, the three of us did morning presents together and then I went on my way, as the two gals had church and the Queen’s family to visit with.
How would I keep busy? This year it seemed important to have a place to be, for at least a few hours, anyway. Last year, in the separate time, I went to visit former BBP writer P-dawg and his family, where we partook in the traditional Jewish Christmas meal – Chinese food. With my buddy off and away, this time out my hangout partner wound up being my mom. The two of us decided to take in a movie, the biggest buzz film of awards season – La La Land.
I bought our tickets on Christmas Eve day, which was a good move, as the two afternoon screenings were both sold out well in advance. Mom and I managed to find seats together in the packed theatre, that seemed to be made up of middle-agers and boomers. It was an interesting mix, and I wasn’t sure what any of us in the audience were expecting. I didn’t know too much about the film other than that it was a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, and that it was directed by Damien Chazelle, the auteur behind the fantastic drumming film, Whiplash. I’m glad I went in cold, because it allowed me to be completely captivated by what was on screen.
In La La Land, aspiring actress Mia (Stone) becomes involved with a jazz-loving pianist named Seb (Gosling). The film traces with good humour and memorable songs their love affair, as the duo try to make it big in Los Angeles. Both actors are superb – while Stone’s voice is outstanding and her role a little meatier, Gosling is almost as impressive, though it’s fair to say his voice isn’t as accomplished. The duo have a natural chemistry together, and believing in their love was absolutely easy to do. I can’t recall watching a romance where a romance actually makes as much sense as the one on display in La La Land. While Mia and Seb have different artistic sensibilities as they try to ply their trade, they both share ambition and goals. In a film that requires the suspension of disbelief, theirs is a love that makes sense.
While watching La La Land, I kept thinking of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo and magic realism, which is defined as “literature, painting, film, and theater that, while encompassing a range of subtly different concepts, share in common an acceptance of magic in the rational world.” The idea of characters breaking into song out of nowhere in La La Land (or walking out of a movie, as in The Purple Rose…) certainly fits the bill for the description, as it also asks the viewer to accept this as simply part of the world. I think it’s easier said than done in this age of moviegoing – sure, we can easily accept comic book characters and fantasy stories, as they’re different worlds than our own. Musicals, for the most part at least, are theoretically set in the world we know, so you’ve got to be willing to go along for the ride. La La Land makes it easy to, mind you. It’s just wonderful film making.
This Christmas, I wanted to feel good. Thankfully, mom and I picked the right movie to see. La La Land is captivating, endearing and entertaining. I’ll be singing its praises for months.