Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Real LaLa Land

Don't pay attention to the dancing beauties; your first clue this is a fantasy is the idea of available street parking. 

Do I ever review films? Do I even see them on a regular basis? Well, no, but I have a few things I'd like to say about "LaLa Land" as I think it's becoming a sort of lighthouse beacon, inspiring aspiring actors and actresses from all over the world to move to Los Angeles and try and become the kind of person that TMZ is interested in following,  no, of course I mean that hones their artistic craft and becomes admired for it.

The City of The Angels is singing its siren song again, something it does every few years when some lucky soul who did come to LA and strike it rich decides to make everyone else think they can, too.

First of all, I want to start by saying that, as a native Angeleno, I did actually really like "LaLa Land," mainly because it was such an affectionate send-up of my hometown -- restaurants, architecture, neighborhoods, all of which are familiar icons of my childhood. My one complaint about the movie was its completely and utterly unrealistic view of show business, and of course, Los Angeles itself. 

In the movie, both the hero and heroine become successful entertainers, cashing in on their talents to the fullest by the time the film ends. The only problem is that this isn't how things usually happen in the real LaLa Land. So in reality, what might more realistically have happened to our romantic pair?  

Second clue: lack of traffic (and jumpers) on Suicide Bridge in Pasadena at rush hour.

Sebastian, our jazz piano player hero (portrayed by Ryan Gosling), might possibly have found good a studio musician, providing he kept up with his union dues and his industry connections, which he seemed to have. He would have been supplying piano riffs in things like McDonald's commercials, industrial videos and recordings of all kinds. A regularly paying gig is a coveted nirvana for most LA musicians who have been around for any length of time, and they tend to count their blessings if they're working regularly, no matter what kind of music it is they are playing. Work is work.

 Mia, our actress heroine (played by Emma Stone), might have ended up working in administration for Warner Brothers, or maybe just managing the coffee kiosk where she had been working. She would have done secretarial temping, waitressing, and catering to pay her bills until a combination of age and burnout sent her into more regular employment, as audition opportunities dwindled. 

Don't believe me? Watch Turner Classic Movies sometime and pay close attention to the closing credits, for any film. Every single person in a supporting role in a film ("girl on street corner," or "Mr. Smith's driver"  was once convinced this was their big break, and that they were finally headed for stardom. Once in a blue moon it actually happened (kind of like winning the lottery). But 99.9 percent of the names you see are unfamiliar strangers to you now because that minor role -- that "big break" -- turned out not to be the start of something great. Six months after their "film debut," it was probably back to that second job and more rounds of auditions. 10 years later, it was probably over and they either got out of the business entirely, or took a job backstage or in studio administration. Or departed Los Angeles, back to whatever town they had come from, becoming someone the neighbors might point to in the hardware store and whisper, "well, he was once a successful Hollywood actor, you know! He appeared with Charlton Heston in 'Ben Hur' as a chariot driver!")

I write this not to throw a wet blanket on the film -- in fact I recommend it highly. Take it in, enjoy it and tap your feet along with the excellent soundtrack while a completely fantastical Los Angeles rolls by visually.

Third clue: believing that young, struggling newcomers in town get invited to parties in places like this.

But don't let your friends, your children or your family become starstruck and think LA is the place to make it. Don't think the streets are that safe, that clean, or that final-read auditions, invitations to swank parties and earning enough to make one's car payment are easy achievements to come by. Thousands will tell you just the opposite.

The film is a lovely fantasy, and nothing more. Enjoy it for that. If you want to move to LA, do it for realistic reasons, such as the epic freeway car chases, occasional earthquakes and fantastic Mexican restaurants...not for show biz, and not because of anything you saw in LaLa Land.


  1. I haven't seen it yet but now I must.

    1. You should, Molly! I was really glad I did. It's very different, very fun, and has a good story. I like that it's not your typical modern film.

  2. Haha one of my close friends walked out of the theater about 30 minutes in and said "f**k this". I wasn't terribly tempted to see it before but after her review I decided I'd wait until it's on tv in a few years. Haha this is perhaps due to my extremely bad attitude about LA! Maybe I should give La La a chance.

    1. I really did love it, but I'm not sure how much I'd love it if it was centered in Las Vegas or Dallas or Miami. Probably not as much! It is a film that will be just as good on the small screen as the large, so I'd say wait and then you won't lose as much money in case it's NOT appealing!