#ScreenplaySunday: LA LA LAND by Damien Chazelle

Welcome to my first #ScreenplaySunday! I chose LA LA LAND as my first review because it was quite different from the movie, and because it happens to be one of my favorite stories out right now (It’s also my pick for this year’s academy award for best original screenplay). Let me just say that to anyone who is even a little bit interested in the art of movies: reading a script is like reading the novel version of your favorite movie. There are so many details that you either miss during the film, or that get cut from the movie that make the story complete. I read the version of ‘LA LA LAND’ that was published in April of 2013. The movie premiered at TIFF (in Toronto yay!) in June of 2016! So getting my hands on the original screenplay I think really helps make this review what it is. Below are my opinions of strengths and weakness of the screenplay from strictly an actress’s perspective! Enjoy, and let me know what you thought of the screenplay or film!

STRENGTHS:

  • No Music — although I absolutely ADORED the musical score of ‘LA LA LAND’ and the musical aspect of the film creates the magic in the story, I liked reading the story without the music. It not only gave more focus to the story, but it was also cool to be able to read the vibe and intention behind a song instead of actually hearing it
  • RELATIONSHIPS — the screenplay alone would’ve shot over a 2 hour film, so I understand why so much of it had to be cut down, especially once the musical numbers were added. However these scenes added much more to the story! Such as:
    • Mia’s Mom — we really get a taste for Mia’s relationship with her parents and how they feel about her career (these short telephone scenes tell everything!) Although they are supportive, they become impatient with her trying to make it. I loved this part because I think every artist deals with this specifically with everyone in their life that cares for them. Our friends and family want us to succeed, and at the same time, we want to make them proud!
    • Greg — The screenplay tells much more about Mia’s relationship with Greg. We see that she really does care for him, which makes the ending of the story, when she ends up with David, make much more sense.
  • MAGICAL — so as magical as the actual film was, I found even more magic in the screenplay. The screenplay compensates for the lack of visuals with describing the song and dance, and lines like “Mia removes her shoes, and the two lovers start moving, making of this theater their own private ballroom — pirouetting down the aisles, hopping from the tops of the seats, one to the next…” encourages us to take our time, use our imaginations, and create even more magic.
  • Character Development — The story is clearly about Mia and Sebastian, and their character development is done well, we get to learn about their past, their present, and their dreams. We get a glimpse into their hearts by the way they talk about their craft and how they speak to each other.

WEAKNESSES:

  • Wordy — Although the extra scenes make for a good story, I found the script a little bit too wordy in the dialogue. Maybe this was a style choice since they were going for an old hollywood or theatrical vibe, where the scripts tend to be heavier in dialogue. Thankfully this was changed in the movie, I’m sure because of solid collaboration between producers, director, and actors.

MY FAVOURITE SCENE:

Hands down my favorite scene in the screenplay (which is not my favorite in the film) begins on page 24 when Sebastian meets Mia at the Warner Brother’s coffee shop where she works. Sebastian waits for Mia to finish work, and then they start to talk. Mia tells Sebastian all of her dreams, and we see him encourage her to make them happen. To me, this scene summarizes the entire story of their relationship. Later, Mia tells Sebastian that she in fact does not like his beloved jazz music. In reply to this, Sebastian takes her to the Lighthouse cafe where he explains the beauty behind Jazz music. It’s Sebastian’s monologue here that I think really makes us fall in love with him, and helps us to recognize the therapeutic outlet that art gives us.

Sebastian says: “You hear it..? It’s the same melody, but a whole new set of notes… It’s what the melody MEANS to him… Maybe he lost someone today — so he’s gonna play that… Or maybe he fell in love… So he plays THAT…”

OVERALL:

Overall I was so impressed with the screenplay for ‘LA LA LAND’. Although I absolutely adored the movie (I don’t know many artists who don’t like it), I think the original raw screenplay and story are what really make the film what it is. Bravo to everyone who made this story come to life, and Bravo to Damien Chazelle!

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