Here again we see the juxtaposition of the lofty dreams of Hollywood with the prosaic, unromantic reality. They break up and Sebastian helps her not to get her back but because he loves her. We picked pockets of the city, but we manipulated the streets and the buildings and the things Jacques Demy did, where he painted murals and he painted large walls different primary colors. The regularity of it, the constancy of financial pressures, is elided. This shot is from a wedding as Sebastian plays the piano. Unhappy residents are confronted with the mundane daily reality that has replaced the Shangri-La of movies they expected.
Yes, there is personal aspiration here, but the primary motivation is to be an inspiration to another small town kid. Surely part of what draws Mia and Sebastian to one another is not the unique quality of their dreams but the fact that so few people in their lives offer support for those dreams. Just as Mia is constantly confronted with people who have or are getting what she longs for — remember the actress who comes into the coffee shop towards the beginning — so too is Sebastian seemingly confronted with those who have positive, loving relationships. The last act is more or less a subversion of romantic movie tropes. My one qualm with this film is that, like Whiplash, it presumes rather than evidences that it is impossible to have both artistic greatness and personal happiness. They have chosen it for the opportunity to make art, and their dance is a small-scale symbol of what they want to do on a larger scale. That said, I hardly fault the film for the empathetic, compassionate portrait of those who choose the pursuit of the former over the pursuit of the latter.
Sandy brought in all of the vintage chairs to match the photos. It went back again to Jacques Demy in that we dressed the apartment in sort of French, thrift-shop-y items, like little metal ornate chairs. . It is the policy of this blog that if the editor or reviewer has received from the producers or marketers of a film a complementary screener, free admission to a public or private screening, or any form of direct or indirect compensation for expenses incurred such as for travel in the process of reviewing a film, it will be noted in the tags for that film's coverage. Wasco re-created the original planetarium, in all of its Art Deco glory, based on photo references and scenes from the James Dean classic. One might complain, I suppose, that this shot is a device. With the aforementioned throwback films as influences, it is no wonder that La La Land feels timeless even though it opens with modern-day cars in bumper-to-bumper freeway traffic—and features jokes about Prius drivers.
Meanwhile, Mia drives a Prius, which, while contemporary, fits her character: a barista scrounging to get by as a struggling actor. Perhaps it is really about the costs of trying to make others happy. We put a turnstile in, and built this huge set around it that kind of heightened our Art Deco aesthetic. So after our work was done each day, they had pizza and soft drinks, and he would show the crew movies he wanted La La Land to look like: The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, both of which had very heavy prime colors. Dated billboards Los Angeles is wallpapered with billboards—another production detail that would have immediately dated the film. To contrast, she used color where Seb was most unhappy—like the restaurant where he plays piano, with its twinkly Christmas lights.
They want to transform pain and suffering into something inspiring, even at a personal cost. Because the artists are so adept at motivating themselves to keep getting up, keep trying, keep creating, we can be fooled into thinking that this is a fairy-tale land where dreams are assured and only a little pluck is what is needed. Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. It is, after all, the joyful celebration of a traffic jam. Recall as well the interlude with the African-American couple on the pier as Sebastian is singing. Mia is facing skepticism about her one-woman play.
In personal relationships that can mean doing what is best for the other person, even if it is hard on you. The end suggests on some levels he wishes they could have had a mutually supportive and loving relationship, but it also suggests that he knows this would have had to entail a fundamental rewrite of their story and not simply a different decision at a key point. But it was important to have a pool that dancers can completely surround for a dance number. Or the green-and-white stripe in one area, and then there was the yellow nouveau color in another room. From the production-design perspective, there was one scene harder to bring to life than that heavily choreographed, freeway opening shot: the pool-party scene.
Spoiler Alert: This post contains plot spoilers for La La Land. . . . .
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