On Nov. 3 in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, tears were shed and words were hard to come by as the sold out screening of “La La Land,” a dreamy musical starring Emma Stone (“Easy A”) and Ryan Gosling (“Drive”), left many viewers in disbelief.
In a time where a dreary election and a seemingly endless stream of dark movies hangs over viewer’s heads, the film was a breath of fresh air to those present. After the screening, many were eager to hear discussion of the film through a Q and A session with Stone and director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”), moderated by local film critic Lisa Kennedy.
Fondness for the film, not only from the audience but from the filmmakers as well, was evident throughout the chat. After her introduction, Stone stated that “it was such an incredible experience to work with Damien and to get to make a film this hopeful and beautiful and heartbreaking.”
Chazelle wrote the film in 2010 years before his first film “Whiplash” would send shockwaves through the industry. Waiting years to make the film of his dreams, Chazelle concluded that “anything that happened with Whiplash helped me get this made.” He would go on to quip that after seeing the success of “Whiplash,” “people started not completely laughing at me when I was a pitching a musical.”
While the greenlight was finally a go, the process of making the film was no easy task for Chazelle and his actors. Chazelle said of the production, “it was a lot of hard work. We felt a lot of times like we were pushing a big boulder up a hill, just exhausting and grueling.”
However, it was all bolstered by the charm of Stone and Gosling. Chazelle poured praise upon the work of the two. “You don’t even need the sound,” Chazelle said. “There’s just something about them, about their screen presence, about this effortless magic that they have even out of context.”
Stone enjoyed the risk of creating something different with Chazelle, despite her worries that the film could be “a beautiful Fantasia or an absolute disaster.” Chazelle’s steady hand in the director’s chair kept her true, however, as she said Chazelle “had patience, talking me through the entire thing.”
While the new aspects of the production excited Stone, it was the familiar that also attracted her. The actress got another chance to act with Gosling, producing what is now their third film together, describing him as “the dreamiest partner you could ever ask to work for.”
“Working with somebody again, somebody like Ryan, there’s a kind of easy rapport that happens,” Stone said. “Here, we got to explore much more as actors and characters in an evolving relationship…it was just really fun to kind of dig deeper.”
In the end, Chazelle and company believed their mission of creating a film that stands out from the crowd had succeeded. They had crafted something they felt was pure and true, an emotional art work that made the audience feel something profound.
“There’s something about how emotionally vulnerable musicals can make you, just by approach of what they do. That allows you touch on emotions that are different sometimes,” Chazelle affirmed. “I think that’s part of the feeling behind it, that we could build something just a little different.”