This refreshingly different musical‐drama‐comedy not only makes us laugh and cry along two aspiring Hollywood stars, but also provides lots of really cool alternative L.A. sightseeing highlights…
The Story: The other side of becoming famous
Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian, 'Seb', (Ryan Gosling) have two things in common: They live in L.A. and they have a big dream. While Mia wants to become a serious actress in Hollywood, Sebastian is dreaming about opening his own jazz club. For the time being, however, they are lightyears away from their big breakthrough: While Mia is working as a barista in a coffee shop and has one unsuccessful audition after the other, Sebastian hardly gets by with low‐paid gigs as a pianist.
The Location: The other side of L.A.
Rather than showcasing the mainstream L.A. visitor attractions like the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, the production team of La La Land focused on Los Angeles "off the beaten track". They also wanted to showcase this vast city in all its diversity. Therefore, some scenes were shot at world‐famous L.A. attractions, such as the Griffith Park Observatory, where Mia and Sebastian enjoy a romantic date, while others were filmed at lesser known L.A. sides. These include the Lighthouse Café on Redondo Beach, a jazz club since 1949, or Hermosa Beach Pier, where Ryan Gosling is performing the film's title song "City of Stars" – by the way an interesting alternative to the often too crowded Santa Monica Pier.
"I have been living in L.A. for nine years now, but when we shot the film, we went to places I had never been to before," says director Damian Chazelle. "That's what I love about living in L.A. You can discover something new all the time." I can certainly agree to that. So far, I've been to L.A. two times for several weeks, but I've probably only seen a mere fraction of everything this vast city has to offer.
If you like to explore those lesser known sides yourself on your next visit to L.A., check out this interactive map, this La La Land film location overview or the Guardian's La La Land location guide to find your very own "La La Land".
The Performance: Old Hollywood Glamour meets Modern Musical
I am not the biggest fan of musicals, so when this film opened with a giant dancing and singing scene on a giant Los Angeles Freeway traffic jam, I wasn't so sure whether I would like it. However, as the film continued, there was actually a lot more dialogue than you would expect for a musical film, so La La Land was a really good mix of everything.
Needless to say, the performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were top notch (I didn't know they both sing so well) and the film critics seem to agree with that. At the 74th Golden Globe Awards, which took place in early January 2017, La La Land bagged a record win of all seven Golden Globe Awards that it was nominated for. And for the 89th Academy Awards, happening later in February, the film was even nominated for a record‐tying fourteen Oscars!
My Final Verdict:
Sometimes a little bit too kitchy for my taste, but overall La La Land had the right amount of musical, comedy and drama with a really emotional ending. Plus, all those alternative LA travel locations make it tempting to rediscover "the city of stars" once more.
**** 4 out of 5 stars