La La Land
La La Land is a 2016 American romantic musical comedy-drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle, and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a musician and an aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles. The film's title refers both to the city of Los Angeles and to the idiom for being out of touch with reality.
Chazelle wrote the screenplay in 2010 but did not find a studio willing to finance the production without changes to his design. Following the success of his 2014 film, Whiplash, the project was picked up by Summit Entertainment. La La Land premiered at the Venice Film Festival on 31 August 2016, and was released in the United States on9 December 2016. It was shot on Kodak 35mm film.
La La Land received very high critical acclaim and was regarded as one of the best films of 2016. Critics praised Chazelle's screenplay and direction, Gosling and Stone's performances, Justin Hurwitz's score and the film's musical numbers.
The film won in every category for which it was nominated at the 74th Golden Globe Awards, with a record-breaking seven wins. It received 11 nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, winning five. It received 14 nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, tying the record for most nominations with Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950), and won the awards for Best Director, Best Actress (Stone), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song ('City of Stars') and Best Production Design.
Damien Chazelle wrote the screenplay for La La Land in 2010. His idea was "to take the old musical but ground it in real life where things don't always exactly work out," and to salute creative people who move to Los Angeles to chase their dreams. He conceived the film when he was a student at Harvard University with his classmate, Justin Hurwitz. The two explored the concept in their senior thesis through a low-budget musical about a Boston jazz musician. Chazelle was moved by the tradition of 1920s city symphony films, such as Manhatta (1921) and Man With a Movie Camera (1929), that paid tribute to cities.] After graduating, both moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and continued writing the script, but made a few modifications, such as altering the location to Los Angeles instead of Boston.
Rather than trying to match L.A. to the charms of Paris or San Francisco, he focused on the qualities that make the city distinctive: the traffic, the sprawl, and the skies. The style and tone of the film were inspired by Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, especially the latter, which was more dance and jazz-oriented. La La Land also makes visual allusions to Hollywood classics such as Broadway Melody of 1940, Singin' in the Rain, and The Band Wagon. It shares some character development and themes with Chazelle's previous musical work, Whiplash; Chazelle said that "they're both about the struggle of being an artist and reconciling your dreams with the need to be human. La La Land is just much less angry about it."
He said that both films reflect his own experiences as a filmmaker working his way up the Hollywood ladder. La La Land in particular is inspired by his experience of moving from the East Coast with preconceived notions of what L.A. would be like, "that it was all just strip malls and freeways."
Chazelle was unable to produce the film for years as no studio was willing to finance an original contemporary musical, with no familiar songs. It was also a jazz musical, which The Hollywood Reporter called an 'extinct genre'. He believed that since he and Hurwitz were unknown at that time, it might have made financiers dubious about the project's potential.
Chazelle found producers through friends who introduced him to Fred Berger and Jordan Horowitz. With the two producers on board, the script went to Focus Features at a budget of around $1 million. The studio demanded alterations: the male lead was asked to be changed from a jazz pianist to a rock musician, the complicated opening number had to be altered, and the story's bittersweet ending needed to be dropped. Chazelle scrapped the project and moved on. He later wrote Whiplash, which was an easier concept to sell and a less risky investment.
After Whiplash was well received by critics upon its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Chazelle continued his efforts to bring La La Land to fruition. A year later, when Whiplash earned five Oscar nominations at the 87th Academy Awards including Best Picture, and grossed nearly $50 million worldwide off a $3.3 million production budget, Chazelle and his project began to attract attention from studios.
Five years after Chazelle wrote the script, Summit Entertainment and Black
Label Media, along with producer Marc Platt, impressed by the critical
and commercial success of Whiplash, agreed to invest in La
La Land and distribute it. Lionsgate's Patrick Wachsberger, who had
previously worked on the Step Up franchise, pushed Chazelle to increase
the film's budget since he felt high-quality musicals could not be made
Initially, Miles Teller and Emma Watson were both set to star in the leads. Watson dropped out over a commitment to the 2017 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, while Teller departed via long contract negotiations. Chazelle decided to make his characters somewhat older, with experience in struggling to make their dreams, rather than younger newcomers just arriving in Los Angeles.
Emma Stone plays Mia, a struggling actress working as a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros lot in Los Angeles, who serves lattes in between auditions. She met Chazelle in 2014 while she was making her Broadway debut in Cabaret. Stone gained confidence from performing in Cabaret to handle the demands of the film. In preparation for her role, Stone watched some of the musical movies that inspired Chazelle, including The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers collaborations.
Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist who makes a living by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, and has dreams of opening his own club. Like Stone, Gosling drew from his own experiences as an aspiring artist. Chazelle cast the two immediately after Summit bought the film. He said the two "feel like the closest thing that we have right now to an old Hollywood couple," akin to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Myrna Loy and William Powell. The film marked the third collaboration between Gosling and Stone, following Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013). Both learned how to sing and dance for the film's six original tunes.
The rest of the cast – J. K. Simmons, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe,
Callie Hernandez, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason
Fuchs, Meagen Fay – were announced between July and August 2015.
From the beginning, Chazelle wanted the film's musical numbers to be filmed 'head to toe' and performed in a single take, like those of the 1930s works of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. He also wanted the film to emulate the widescreen, CinemaScope look of 1950s musicals such as It's Always Fair Weather. Consequently, the film was shot on film (not digitally) with Panavision equipment in a widescreen format, but not true CinemaScope, as that technology is no longer available.
Chazelle wanted Los Angeles to be the primary setting for his film, commenting that "there is something very poetic about the city I think, about a city that is built by people with these unrealistic dreams and people who kind of just put it all on the line for that." Principal photography on the film officially began in the city on 10 August 2015, and filming took place in more than 60 L.A. locations, including the downtown trolley, houses in the Hollywood Hills, Angels Flight, the Colorado Street Bridge, South Pasadena, Grand Central Market, Hermosa Beach Chateau Marmont Hotel, and the Watts Towers, with many scenes shot in one take. It took 40 days to complete shooting, finishing in mid-September 2015.
The opening pre-credits sequence was the first to be shot, and was filmed on a closed-off portion of the carpool ramp of the Los Angeles highway, connecting the 105 freeway to the 110, leading to Downtown Los Angeles. It was filmed in a span of two days, and required over 100 dancers. For this particular scene, Chazelle wanted to give a sense of how vast the city is. The scene was originally planned for a stretch of ground-level highway, until Chazelle decided to shoot it in the 105–110 interchange, which arcs 100 feet in the air. Production designer David Wasco said"I thought somebody was going to fall off and get killed." Chazelle compared the scene to the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Chazelle scouted for 'old L.A.' locations that were in ruins, or were perhaps razed. One such example is filming in the Angels Flight trolly built in 1901. The funicular had been closed in 2013 after a derailment. However, the production team was able to secure permission to use it for a day. Chazelle and his crew then arranged to have it run for shooting. The six-minute long Prius scene had to be completed during the brief 'magic hour' moment at sunset. It took eight takes and two days to shoot it.
Since Gosling and Stone were not Broadway performers, the two made a number of mistakes, especially during long uninterrupted single-take musical numbers. However, Chazelle was very sympathetic towards them, understanding their lack of experience. While shooting Sebastian and Mia's first dance together, Stone stumbled over the back of a bench, but picked right up and kept on going with the scene.
Chazelle spent nearly a year editing the film with editor Tom Cross.
La La Land had its world premiere as the Venice Film Festival's opening night film on 31 August 2016. The film also screened at the Telluride Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival, the Middleburg Film Festival in late October, the Virginia Film Festival, held at the University of Virginia in November, and the AFI Fest also in November.
The film was initially set for a July 2016, release; however, in March, it was announced the film would be given a limited release starting 2 December, before expanding on 16 December. Chazelle stated that the change was because he felt that the release date was not right for the context of the film, and because he wanted to have a slow rollout beginning with the early fall film festivals. The film was later pushed back a week to 9 December, with the wide release still being planned for 16 December. Lionsgate opened the film in five locations on 9 December, and expanded it to about 200 theatres on 16 December, before going nationwide on 25 December.
La La Land was released in the United Kingdom on 12 January 2017, with the rest of the territories planned for a release from mid-January 2017.
• Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder
• Emma Stone as Mia Dolan
• John Legend as Keith
• Rosemarie DeWitt as Laura Wilder
• Finn Wittrock as Greg Earnest
• Jessica Rothe as Alexis
• Sonoya Mizuno as Caitlin
• Callie Hernandez as Tracy
• J. K. Simmons as Bill
• Tom Everett Scott as David
• Meagen Fay as Mia's Mom
• Damon Gupton as Harry
• Jason Fuchs as Carlo
• Josh Pence as Josh
songs and score for La La Land were composed and orchestrated by Justin
Hurwitz, Chazelle's Harvard University classmate, who also worked on his
two prior films. The lyrics were written by Pasek and Paul,except for
"Start a Fire", which was written by John Stephens, Hurwitz,
Marius De Vries and Angelique Cinelu.
A soundtrack album was released on 9 December 2016, by Interscope Records, featuring selections from Hurwitz's score and songs performed by the cast.
La La Land was met with critical acclaim upon its release, with critics praising its screenplay, direction, performances, musical score and musical numbers. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 93%. The site's critical consensus reads, "La La Land breathes new life into a bygone genre with thrillingly assured direction, powerful performances, and an irresistible excess of heart." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating based on reviews, the film has a score of 93 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave La La Land four stars out of four, describing it as "a hot miracle" and complimenting its musical numbers, particularly the opening scene. He went on to name it his favorite movie of the year. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune similarly lauded the opening sequence, in addition to highlighting Stone's performance, stating "she's reason enough to see La La Land." Phillips gave the film four out of four stars, declaring it "the year's most seriously pleasurable entertainment".
A. O. Scott of the New York Times praised the film, stating that it "succeeds both as a fizzy fantasy and a hard-headed fable, a romantic comedy and a showbiz melodrama, a work of sublime artifice and touching authenticity". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film five out of five stars, describing it as "a sun-drenched musical masterpiece." Tom Charity of Sight & Sound stated, "Chazelle has crafted that rare thing, a genuinely romantic comedy, and as well, a rhapsody in blue, red, yellow and green." Diana Dabrowska of Cinema Scope wrote, "La La Land may look like the world that we dream about, but it also understands the cruelty that can come out of (or undermine) those dreams; it's shot in CinemaScope, and yet it's still an intimate masterpiece."
Writing for The Boston Globe in December 2016, Ty Burr summarized the effectiveness of the film to relate to audiences stating: "...the movie traffics in the bittersweet happiness of treasuring things that are vanishing, like the unrealized future imagined in the climactic dance number, or those inky, star-filled dance floors that go on forever in old movies, or Hollywood musicals themselves. Or jazz: Sebastian has an early moment at a nightclub where he passionately sticks up for the music he loves. “It’s dying on the vine,” he says. “And the world says ‘Let it die. It had its time.’ Well, not on my watch.” In that scene, he speaks for the director. By the end of “La La Land,” he’s speaking for all of us."
At the 89th Academy Awards, La La Land received a leading six awards, including Best Director, Best Actress (for Stone), Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song ("City of Stars") and Best Production Design. The film received a total of 14 nominations, tying records for most nominations by a single film with All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997). Its other nominations included Best Picture, Best Actor (for Gosling), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, a second nomination for Best Original Song ('Audition'), Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
During the ceremony, Faye Dunaway announced that La La Land had won Best Picture, reading it from the incorrect card Warren Beatty held, which was actually for the Best Actress award that Stone had just won. It took the show's crew more than two minutes and nearly three speeches to rectify the mistake; the actual winner was Moonlight.
At the 74th Golden Globe Awards, La La Land received a leading seven nominations. The film won in all seven categories for which it was nominated, setting a record for most Golden Globes won by a single film, namely Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Actor – Comedy or Musical for Gosling, Best Actress – Comedy or Musical for Stone, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Original Song ('City of Stars').
La La Land received eleven nominations at the 70th British Academy Film Awards, more than any other film of 2016. The film won in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Stone, Best Cinematography and Best Film Music.