WEIRDLAND: Romanticism in "La La Land" and "The Spectacular Now"

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Romanticism in "La La Land" and "The Spectacular Now"

Summit Entertainment has announced that La La Land has been pushed back from its previously scheduled July 15 release date. Instead, Damien Chazelle’s modern-day musical will open Dec. 2 in limited release before going wide on Dec. 16. Chazelle, who scored an Oscar nomination for Whiplash, wrote and directed his musical love letter to the city of Los Angeles, starring Gosling and Stone as musician, Sebastian, and struggling actress, Mia. The two see each other as kindred spirits, only to find their blossoming relationship threatened by success. “There’s an incredible romanticism in L.A. that you don’t always see when you’re stuck in traffic on the 405,” Chazelle told EW about La La Land in December. “I wanted to make a big love letter to the city and focus on that push and pull that all young artists experience, between dreams and reality, which old Hollywood musicals are so good at expressing. I think there’s something poetic about that.” Source:

It’s strongly implied in the interview that the reason Miles Teller was no longer "creatively right" was that Whiplash became an Oscar winning film, thus making Chazelle and his films much hotter properties in Hollywood. The male lead in La La Land (which is the role we assume is being discussed) is now being played by Ryan Gosling, so that shows you a little how that went... Teller’s Whiplash co-star J.K. Simmons is also in it. Of course, it’s also possible that filming summer superhero movies and other more mainstream fare like the Divergent series also soured the director on him creatively. Source:

Miles Teller and Brie Larson starred in the indie darling The Spectacular Now, playing a high school's most popular couple (before Teller's character struck up a relationship with Shailene Woodley, of course). Miles decided to honor his former costar by throwing it back to that beloved flick. "I never should've let her break up with me in Spectacular Now!" he wrote on Twitter shortly after her big win. "Congrats @brielarson." Source:

As far as chemistry goes, no one showed more connectivity than Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, redefining high school romanticism through fears of commitment and embracing future unknowns. The Spectacular Now is a rare film that wears its colors on its sleeve, and sucks you into the world of Miles Teller’s character Sutter for a watch that could be classified as emotionally bi-polar. Source:

Shailene Woodley may steal the show, but there's no doubt that the film belongs to Miles Teller's Sutter. A good-time kid smarting from his breakup with his girlfriend and determined to live in an eternal present despite his half-assed attempts at filling out college applications, Sutter is also haunted by the absence of his father. The early scenes between the two lovers are among the film's finest, and the filmmakers smartly undercut the romanticism of many of these sequences by suggesting that even as Sutter is wooing Aimee, she still serves as a consolation prize for the ex he can't win back.

Unfortunately, the film then turns its attention primarily to the question of Sutter's parental inheritance, particularly the ways in which he either has been, or imagines he has been, shaped in both his alcoholism and his philosophy of living in the moment, by his absent father. It's a questionable turn for a movie that that, until that point, succeeded largely by avoiding this kind of easy psychologizing, instead unfolding as a series of sharply rendered interactions between young people trying to figure out their place in a world that exists beyond their fragile understanding. Source:

The reality is the idealist perspective of the man-child does not really hold up. James Ponsoldt's riveting "The Spectacular Now" humanizes the "man-child" and examines the origins and evolutions of this archetype. Sutter reacts to his environment without really giving it much thought. His decisions slowly reveal more about his desire to use his nonchalant nature as a defense for a fear of the world he desperately wants to avoid. Teller makes a star turn as Sutter. He's full of energy and his smile makes him a loveable character. His characterization tries to put up the front of the strong character and yet comes off as awkward and out-of-place. As his character descends, the smile dissipates behind an increasingly stern face that is wrestling to keep its emotions in check. 

The idyllic, carefree world of prom and high school is dominated by the complex and disappointing one inhabited by adults. Woodley is breathtaking in her turn as Aimee. Her timid and insecure nature is genuine and palpable, and her transformation, like Sutter's, is one of trial by fire. Ponsoldt and cinematographer Jess Hall utilize the long take to terrific effect in pivotal scenes; a powerful portrayal of the title's "Spectacular Now" if you will. A sex scene is filmed in a tight long shot that creates a powerful sense of intimacy but also reflects naturalism. Source:

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