Today's World Ignored: La La Land

Unless you live an existence completely isolated from the media, you’ve probably heard of La La Land (2016), directed by Damien Chazelle. You’ve read an article, seen a promo, or encountered a film major friend salivating and sobbing as they recount just how fucking flawless the cinematography is and how much it makes them FEEL.

However, if you, like I, look beyond the musical numbers and the talent of cast members Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, you’ll realize that the story of this film leaves something to be desired.

La La Land tells a gorgeous story about love, loss and dreams. In doing so, Chazelle creates engaging and multi-dimensional characters against the romantic backdrop of Hollywood. But in general, and most glaringly when compared to other films garnering Oscar nods this year, La La Land’s cultural and societal significance is null. This year also saw the release of films such as Moonlight (2016) and Lion (2016) that include diverse casts and address topics such as race, sexuality, and identity. With these films in mind, I find it hard to believe La La Land has risen to the top of the heap. Today, I can’t go online for a moment without seeing 30 or more newsbytes about the latest political and human rights catastrophes. I feel strange being told that a movie that addresses none of these things is the “best of the year.”

In addition to the fact that La La Land doesn’t address anything politically important, another of La La Land’s issues is that it paints Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as the white savior of jazz, a music genre that was created and developed by black Americans. I mean, seriously? Maybe it is the sociology major in me, but I find it incredibly hard to overlook this flaw. Throughout the entire movie, I could hear the voice of all of my education on race in the media screaming in my head how problematic this theme was. And that voice was a bit louder than Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s singing.

I am by no means saying that I disliked watching this movie­. I really enjoyed the brightly colored visuals and contemporary take on the old Hollywood love narrative. I’ve heard many people tell me that I should just enjoy the movie without trying to think politically about it. But I can’t really enjoy a film that goes against what I think about daily. And I don’t want to. It’s true that not every film needs to be representative of larger social issues, some movies just exist for pure entertainment purposes, and perhaps this “escape” from reality that La La Land creates is one of its charms. But art in today’s political climate, especially cinematic art that is so widely consumed, should send a message, reveal the obscured, and, above all, make its observer think.

This is where La La Land falls short. –Amelia Spittal

Amelia Spittal ’18 is a sociology and government major at Wesleyan University.

La La Land
Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2h 8