There is much to love about La La Land — and the film, which centers on a love story in Los Angeles, will hold a special place in the hearts of LGBT audience members.
There are many reasons for this endearment. First, La La Land is a musical movie. The form is beloved by many queer people by virtue of its flights of fancy and escape from the travails of everyday life. La La Land fulfills all of these promises. In its vision of the world, a traffic jam transforms into a joyous opportunity for song. Falling in love becomes a dance among the stars. Its success will hopefully inspire other filmmakers to also embrace fantasy and revive a long-dormant genre, in a time when so many are in need of a break from the dark realities of the world.
The necessity of this escape cannot be underscored too much. LGBT people and other vulnerable populations have been thrown into emotional turmoil since the presidential election win by Donald Trump, whose campaign has fueled homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic forces across the country. Hate crimes have spiked. Calls to suicide hotlines have gone through the roof. Historically, the movie musical has achieved popularity during times of uncertainty as a means of coping with this uncertainty. La La Land will not solve the problems of the world, but it does offer a much-needed respite.
In addition to its own musicality, La La Land offers many references to classics of old. Queer cinephiles — and there are many — will revel in the references to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Singin’ in the Rain, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Top Hat, A Chrous Line, and An American in Paris, which are knowing nods from director Damien Chazelle, a longtime student and lover of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
La La Land’s setting in Los Angeles is in itself a love letter to movie history: the Hollywood sign, the Santa Monica Pier, the Griffith Observatory, famously featured in Rebel Without a Cause. But despite its references to history, the film is not stuck in the past by any means. It embraces its own modernity as a love story in which members of different genders are on equal footing.
And La La Land’s lead character, Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is one queer people can relate to. Although the film centers on his relationship with a female character, Mia, played by Emma Stone, Sebastian most certainly falls into the category of the “other.” Throughout the film, the struggling jazz musician fights against conformity. He is fired from his job because he refuses to sacrifice his art. The fight to stay true to his self is a central conflict. In this respect, it is a coming-out story, in which both characters must confront their true desires and find the courage to fulfill them.
Gosling’s queer appeal is also noteworthy. His “hey, girl” memes and red-carpet slideshows, which may have helped fuel BuzzFeed’s rise, are a credit to his looks but also to that “it” factor reserved for a special class of celebrity. His chemistry with Emma Stone, previously on display in Crazy, Stupid Love, is a thing to behold.
Behold La La Land yourself in select theaters this weekend and in wider release next. Watch the trailer below.