San Marino High School

From a teen perspective: The ‘La La Land’ machine

In seventh grade, I created my Snapchat username after Demi Lovato’s song La La Land.” Four years later, it takes on a new meaning.

Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” first came into my radar on Nov. 3, 2016. In the three months subsequent, my relationship with this particular film experienced its highs and lows. Immediately after viewing the “Dreamers” version of the official trailer (a montage of several of the film’s aesthetically pleasing shots set against Emma Stone’s “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”), I was compelled to locate the sheet music and treated my neighbors to an hour-long piano solo.

I eagerly anticipated the release of the original motion picture soundtrack on Dec. 9, 2016 and dutifully made the most of my Spotify Premium subscription by adopting it as the soundtrack of my life for the ensuing weeks. Unfortunately, the theatrical release corresponded with my semester finals and my eagerness to finally experience this film that had me enamored with a two-minute trailer was unsatisfied.

After finals, my family left for England and my viewing was further delayed. Through this time, I indulged my enthusiasm by reading every critical review and scouring YouTube comment sections. By the time I finally saw it on Jan. 3, I was ready for “La La Land” to secure a place in my top ten favorite movies of all time.

The praise for it are plentiful: the movie hitting emotional zeniths for Hollywood hopefuls and its Golden Globes sweep with a record-breaking seven for seven win. With 14 Oscar nominations to back it up (a feat only shared thus far with with “All About Eve” and “Titanic”), the national conversation surrounding “La La Land” may appear to be mere nitpicking.

Criticisms range from appraisal of the dimensionalism (or lack thereof) in Emma Stone’s Mia character to the underlying discomfort of bestowing the task of “explaining jazz” to Ryan Gosling. Or on a more neutral scale, a January “Saturday Night Live” skit starring Aziz Ansari vocalized an emerging sentiment shared by certain viewers of the acclaimed film.

Is “La La Land” just okay? Is it even worthy of the buzz and conversation surrounding it?  Is such conversation a consequence of an artificial need for consensus? Have you even seen “Moonlight” yet?

Of my two friends who have taken the time to see the Oscar contender, one left within the first 20 minutes in favor of “Trolls” and the other failed to be charmed by Chazelle’s purple skies and Justin Hurwitz’s sweeping score. As for me, I failed to experience the sort of emotional catharsis I was anticipating after weeks of listening to the soundtrack and revisiting trailers and clips. I didn’t hate the ending, I was expecting it the way one goes into tear-jerker movies expecting to cry.

Especially after watching Jacques Demy’s “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (one of Chazelle’s cited inspirations), I found a discrepancy between my anticipations and the reality. When I watch a movie, I do not seek enticing storylines or awe-inducing cinematography (although they are pluses).  Instead, I long to experience the emotionality of the film and feel what the director is capable of making me feel.

While I do not begrudge anyone who emotionally responded to the work, I stand by my statement that “La La Land” was good, A- worthy. But that minus sign will remain tacked on at the end due to its lack of success to emotionally resonate with me. Perhaps its due to my age and my lack of experience in the “real world,” but “La La Land”‘s candy-colored landscapes lingers as more of an homage to the emotiona of the iconic movie musicals of the past.