Singing, dancing, and Hollywood abound in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land; a film with almost enough stunning visuals and dramatic turns to drown out the nagging feeling that I’ve perhaps left the oven on.
The dazzling leads, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, are masterful in their portrayal of a young couple in throes of a burning love — a love which conveniently serves as a metaphor for the walls of my apartment: fiery and unrelenting, as their passions spread from the kitchen to the living room, consuming the sofa and a pair of mismatched recliners.
The moment Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (
Stove Stone) meet calls back to the moment you turned the stovetop on earlier in the morning to fry up some leftover hoisin tofu in your grandmother’s cast iron griddle. Things started off cool, grew warm then hot, and before anyone registers what’s happened it’s probably too late and an entire lifetime of physical possessions has turned to a smoldering mess while you were elsewhere, worried to pieces.
But what else could you have done? Walk out and drive all the way home? Boy, you’d look like a total moron then, still clutching half of a $12 movie ticket in an apartment that smells like hoisin sauce with all its major appliances in the OFF setting.
The cinematography left this film reviewer wondering, How will I apologize to my wife about the dog?
“Which would be worse to leave on?” you’ll ask, while Sebastian struggles to balance reality and ambition. The stovetop probably, since there is a chance something could fall upon it and ignite like a piece of paper or a large ball of dust or a failing actress. But maybe the oven part with its bowels that give no respite and in which bad things grow worse, just like the compacting debt forcing its weight on a prospect-less Sebastian.
The emotional peak of the film comes near the middle of the second act when Sebastian leaves a meal in the oven for too long leaving the kitchen of his Los Angeles apartment partially filled with a thin veil of smoke. Mia storms out of the apartment before checking to ensure the oven is off, which will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings and cause you to clutch your car keys, wavering in your indecision to exit the theater. Fortunately, Sebastian is there to turn off the stove. Lucky guy. One can’t help but wonder in that tense moment what would happen had Sebastian become distracted and forgotten about the stove and left to go see this very movie.
La La Land is about two hours. Surely everyone has been home while the oven was on for two hours and nothing caught fire — why should today be any different? Say about three hours, accounting driving time for the distance to the theater and back, with a quick trip to the gas station market for some sneaky pocket-snacks. Three hours is not as long as it feels sometimes.
Near the end of the film, this viewer was left staring down a bleak reality: I suppose it is possible that the temperature of a room could reach a point where it would burst entirely into flames. Some things in life become too volatile and can’t be contained. There was some moment in my life where leaving the house was more important than checking to make sure one of the most dangerous things I use every day wasn’t in a position to ruin everything I own. As Mia would soon learn they say in Paris; c’est la vie.
Is it a good movie? Who’s to say? It’s hard to care about anything when your house is hypothetically engulfed in a conflagration of your absentmindedness. Also, I’m not exactly sure what happened in the last few minutes because I left to use the restroom. When I returned the credits were wrapping up, and I went home. My apartment was fine, the oven was off.
All things considered, I would like give my local fire department two thumbs way up for always being at the ready — whether they’re actually needed or not.