Melissa Hebeler/ E! Illustration
Melissa Hebeler/ E! Illustration
La La Land is a love letter to old movies. It's a love letter to jazz. It's a love letter to tap dancing. It's a love letter to the beauty and grace of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It's a love letter to the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
But mostly, it's a love letter to Los Angeles.
You know the tale by now: Boy is aspiring jazz musician and jazz club owner. Girl is aspiring actress. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl work on respective careers. Boy and girl fall in love, but then their careers get in the way. But behind the grand romance of this movie and all those beautifully choreographed dance scenes and the adorably quirky songs and the totally gratuitous close-up shots of Gosling playing the piano is a third star who is just as charming: Good ol' LA.
And trust, this isn't the LA of our reality, with its unending traffic and way-too-new buildings and totally nonexistent (or should we say insufficient) public transit system. This is the dreamer's LA. The Los Angeles with beautiful art deco homes and magical movie lots and jaw-droppingly gorgeous sunsets and the beach and the sun and stars that you can actually see. And sure, there's traffic, but it's the kind of traffic that makes people want to jump out of their cars and sing about.
Maybe it's a pile of crap, but it's an unbelievably fun pile of crap.
It's truly impossible to watch La La Land without wanting to at least visit the City of Angels, and we can say with utter certainly that every person who walks out of the theater will immediately Google that jazz club or that supper club or that pier or that lookout point. But put your iPhones away and give Siri a break, because we've got it all right here. It's the official movie map of this sometimes glorious city, otherwise known as The Stalker's Guide to Places That Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling Have Been. And in chronological order straight from the flick, no less.
The 101 Freeway
It's a meet-cute, y'all! Or rather, the first of several meet-cutes. The movie opens with a stunning song-and-dance number in the middle of an epic traffic jam on "The 101," an infamously horrid stretch of concrete that we promise never looks as joyful as it does onscreen. But that's probably because when we get harassed by fellow drivers, they don't look a thing like Ryan Gosling and we're almost certainly not going to fall in love with them down the proverbial road. In real life, the FastTrak lane at the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways stood in for this particular stretch of road, but trust us when we say that they all look the same.
The Warner Brothers Lot
Go straight to Burbank, sign up for the Warner Brothers studio tour, and keep your eye out for the coffee shop, the parking lot, and a nondescript gate, and pretend you are Emma Stone pretending to be an aspiring actress who works at the coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot.
You didn't hear it from us, but word on the street is if you head to The Langham Apartments on Normandie Avenue in Koreatown, you'll be able to see the exterior of the building where Emma Stone lives in La La Land. Actually, you did hear it from us, but definitely don't bother any of the real people who live there.
The same goes for Willis Avenue in Panorama City, but something tells us most people won't be driving out to Panorama City to see the outside of a building where Ryan Gosling pretended to live.
The House Party
You know that feeling when you're an aspiring actress and your roommates shame you into going to a house party out in the hills of Encino because there are going to be "important people" there, but then your car gets towed and you have to walk all the way home? Emma Stone does. We're willing to forgive the fact that no one can walk from Encino to anywhere.
Here we have the second meet-cute. After Emma-slash-Mia's very very long walk down the hill from the ill-fated house party she wanders into an old-timey restaurant that we're dying to spend a cold night in, to see Ryan-slash-Sebastian playing the piano and looking, well, like Ryan Gosling. It's called Lipton's in the movie, but pro tip to head to Dan Tana's in real life.
The Pool Party
Picture this: Ryan Gosling in an '80s cover band, playing "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls. In Encino, yet again.
The Sunset Tap Dance
The scene that will make you wish you lived in the Hollywood Hills (or at least got invited to pool parties there), want to watch Singin' in the Rain, and regret not watching every sunset that Los Angeles has ever had. But it's not too late! Get thee to Mount Hollywood Drive stat, and bring your tap shoes.
The Van Beek
The true horror of a jazz club that flips into a Samba-and-tapas bar! Luckily for humanity, this is just a studio in Burbank.
The Lighthouse Cafe
When you tell Ryan Gosling that you just don't like jazz, he's going to change your mind, darn it. And he's going to do it by taking you to these awesome hole-in-the-wall called The Lighthouse Cafe down in Hermosa Beach, a place that we can guess is worth the Uber.
Hermosa Beach Pier
We've never walked down to the end of this pier, but we can say with complete satisfaction that Ryan Gosling will never be here singing "City of Stars." Will it stop us from going several times just to make sure? Absolutely not.
No funny business here: This restaurant was Jar in the movie and it's Jar in real life. Be prepared to get fancy if you're going to swing by. (Oh, and also definitely don't swing by; make a reservation.)
If only this place were still an old-fashioned movie theater that played Rebel Without a Cause on a Friday night instead of just a former old-fashioned movie theater that (probably, once) played Rebel Without a Cause on a Friday night. Either way, a great date scene goes down here.
The Griffith Observatory
Damien Chazelle can put on a romantic date montage like nobody's business. A pivotal moment in the movie revolves around Ryan and Emma's characters falling in love as they romp all around Los Angeles, from museums to outdoor sculptures in the Watts neighborhood to downtown's Grand Central Market to Angel's Flight, the former funicular which you can visit but unfortunately can't ride like they did. But perhaps the most pivotal moment goes down inside the planetarium at the Griffith Observatory, that beautiful white building on the hilltop that thousands have admired and much fewer have ventured inside to actually look at the planetarium. Maybe next time you will.
The Chateau Marmont
This hotel is a place where Hollywood legends begin, so it's only fitting that Emma Stone's character...well, we don't want to spoil it if you haven't seen it yet. (Why haven't you seen it yet?)
Seb's Jazz Club
Go to Black on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. Then close your eyes and tell yourself you are in the final scene of La La Land. Then be infinitely happy.