We love La La Land Because Real Life Terrifies Us

Niall Flynn /
Feb 20, 2017 / Film & TV

The year is 2017; snow is beginning to fall.

In America, President Trump is vowing to take judges ‘to court’, while North Korea are continuing their increase in nuclear and ballistic tests, successfully firing a missile towards the Sea of Japan. Nervously, we await the tumultuous unknowing of Britain’s looming formal departure from the European Union, meanwhile, nearly 100 bushfires blaze simultaneously across Australia. Oh, Nazis are back, too – and JK Rowling is our best hope of defeating them. That was just last week, by the way.

If it all seems a bit dystopian, that’s because it absolutely is. Thank goodness then, that we have La La Land, and all of its infectious loveliness.

Since its release in January, critics have been queuing up to offer their take on just how wonderful Damien Chazelle’s musical is; Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called it a “sun-drenched masterpiece”, The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin referred to it as “delectable”, whereas The i’s very own Matthew Turner lauded it as “gorgeously romantic”. It has equalled the record for most ever Academy Award nominations with a stunning total of 14, winning a grand total of 80 separate accolades – including seven Golden Globes, eight Critics’ Choice awards and five BAFTAs – in the process.

In time, it will win everything else. Oscars, hearts, minds; if you were to enter it into the Premier League, Six Nations, or Gary Barlow’s Let It Shine, it would win all of those, too. In the year 2017, La La Land will never stop winning.

Why? Because it’s a good film? Yes, kind of – but there have been much better. Instead, La La Land will win everything because of its commitment to glorious, heady escapism.

As a piece of cinema, Chazelle’s film transports the viewer to an entirely new realm, one in which love is the one true currency and it never, ever rains. Everyone is beautiful, moisturised, wearing clothes that fit them and singing – that’s right, singing – about the enthusiastic pursuit of their starry-eyed dreams. In a time when real life has never been scarier, La La Land holds you against the bosom of its technicolour take on alternate reality, stroking your hair and whispering, sweetly: “this is how it should be”. We’ve never needed it more.

Moonlight, Barry Jenkins’s astonishing, intersectional drama, is the best film of the year, but far too grounded within the impuissant constraints of reality for our routinely shell-shocked liking. Nocturnal Animals, Manchester By The Sea and I, Daniel Blake (also better films) are similarly anchored by their commitment to realism ­– not to mention the fact that they’re bleak as hell. Another time, they’d rule supreme, but their gritty, recognisable take on heartache and tribulation is an unwelcome mirror when we need a big ol’ telescope; they build a ceiling when we need a sky.

Why bother with a haunting look at grief when you can watch Ryan Gosling winking at Emma Stone from across the room, or waste your time confronting the stark failings of Britain’s benefits system when you can be taken to the City of Stars for a two-hour tap dance. Race isn’t an issue that needs exploring if your own black character is John Legend, and if you live in La La Land, neither is sex – everybody is too busy falling in love and singing about it to even think about finding the time to sleep with each other. Could Gosling and Stone’s characters have spared a moment to get it on? Almost certainly. But we’d have had to have lost half a chorus. And wasn’t that chorus lovely.

La La Land will win everything because shutting your eyes and pretending something isn’t there is always much more enjoyable than actively thinking about it. It’s a beautiful, charming film that hollas delightfully to the Tinsel Town era; we love it because it’s close enough to the identifiability of the everyday, yet far away enough to make us feel like we’re somewhere else. As long as reality continues to disappoint, La La Land’s idyllic alternative will continue to thrive.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

Words by Niall Flynn

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