The Pile Of Shame: La La Land – A Catchy, Poignant Tale

Welcome to the Pile of Shame. Throughout my years of ceaseless debauchery and frankly worrying video game addiction, I missed out on movies that many consider classics. If you’ve ever asked someone if they watched a certain movie and gasped when they said they never did, you know what type of guy I am. I figured that it’s pretty silly that someone like me who lacks the appropriate historical movie education is allowed to write on such an esteemed movie website as ours, and have since created a pile of classic movies that I will work through in order to achieve true enlightenment. This series will be my chronicle through it and you’re more than welcome to tag along. Also, expect some spoilers in there, if you haven’t watched these films already.

Since this is a relatively new film, I just want to reiterate that spoiler warning before we move on. Be sure that you have watched the movie before carrying on because it’s well worth your time.

The Pile of Shame can easily be misconstrued as only containing movies that were made before I was born or when I just learned how to walk. The grand majority of movies within the Pile are pretty old and have been a part of the fabric of culture for so long, but there are also new movies that I’m often shamed for not watching. The most prominent one has to be La La Land, the musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Going into it, I was immediately hesitant because I am not the biggest fan of musicals. They’re often greatly exaggerated and almost campy to the point where I don’t take them as seriously as I should. It genuinely feels to me like I’m watching an extended music video and that is not why I watch movies. When La La Land started off with beautiful people dancing around a highway overpass singing a delightful tune, I almost tuned out. However, I’m very glad that I didn’t because the subsequent story and experience were well worth sticking around for.

La La Land is a genuine tale of love, loss and the often confusing nature of life. It’s packaged in some glitzy dance moves and wonderful aesthetics, but what they’re trying to tell here is as real as you’ll ever get. Two unlikely people get paired up, an aspiring actress and an obsessive jazz musician. We go all the way from their initial meetings to their poignant conclusion all while experiencing a stunning display of dancing and singing. The musical numbers in the movie still have a certain level of cheesiness associated with them, but they are not overpowering and they always seek to drive the narrative forward. The purely instrumental jazz pieces opt to just convey raw emotion through body language and the intricacies of the music. It’s pure auditory bliss and I’d even wager to say that it renewed my interest in musicals.

The narrative is where the movie truly shines. Instead of being a rudimentary romantic comedy starring two beautiful leading actors, it instead went for a very sullen exploration into the nature of human love. Mia and Seb are obviously on different sides of the spectrum, but they both embrace each other’s lifelong passions and become encouraging in their individual pursuits. However, life is a fickle thing and like the classic Rolling Stones song once said, “you can’t always get what you want”. The relationship between these two is beautiful, it’s almost idyllic and I can bet that we all hoped it would work out between the two of them. But the thing we all want and the thing we get are often completely at odds with each other.

The lovely couple hit a lot of barriers within their relationship. Seb needs to play as a band musician and tour the country in order to make ends meet while Mia struggles to get a leg into her acting career. It creates a rift between the two and they soon realise that the fairytale ending they are hoping for is just not going to happen without them completely abandoning their dreams. Love is powerful, but despite the old adage, it does not conquer all. Sometimes what you have to give up for love is too dire and you need to step back and reconsider what matters the most to you as a person.

This story is heart-wrenching if you have ever experienced lost love in your life. I experienced this a few times in my own life and it hit me much harder than it would a person that hasn’t. I’ve experienced the heartbreak that comes from losing someone who you were absolutely certain that you would spend the rest of your life with. A person who fulfilled you, who gave you the most joy in this treacherous and uncaring world. It often doesn’t work out for seemingly dumb reasons, like someone’s inherent weakness or their chosen path. This is an often common thing that many people in this world experience, but that doesn’t take away from the hurt you feel from it. La La Land captured the pain immaculately while keeping it in its audacious presentation style.

In the end, La La Land had almost everything going for it. It had the strong and meaningful narrative, the beautiful aesthetic and the absolutely brilliant soundtrack. It was a complete package in every sense of the phrase and we don’t see movies of this calibre on our screens as often. The movie took an idea and shined it to such detail that you cannot walk away from it feeling disappointed and because of that, it deserves to be within my Pile of Shame as a classic. I never believed that I would be so enamoured by a romantic musical, but La La Land managed to capture my heart through its infectious beats and wonderful storytelling.

The Pile of Shame returns next week with an old classic, Blade Runner. I’m of the nerd variety and since reading the wonderful Ready Player One, it was made clear to me that this is essential viewing for someone like me.

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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa's national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.
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Thabo is an English poet, playwright, and genius, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called South Africa’s national poet, and the “Prince of Underpaid Writing”.