Out of the ashes of a former entertainment goldmine arises one of the most majestic films in recent years. La La Land is a one-two punch: a critical darling and commercial success with seven Golden Globe wins and a stellar box office turnout. A base-level analysis of the film would likely attribute such success to its originality, its stellar direction, the magnetic chemistry of stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and its dazzling cinematography. However, such an analysis would be incomplete if it overlooked what the film was ultimately communicating through these avenues: a return to timeless, universal stories.

The film centers around two individuals, Sebastian and Mia, who are led by a shared passion for the arts against the beautiful and tumultuous backdrop of Los Angeles. Their paths eventually cross, as audiences continue to watch them relentlessly pursue their dreams, all the while facing the difficulties common to such journeys. Despite its fantastical imagery, the humanity displayed by these characters throughout the film is as close to authentic as it gets. It’s heartbreaking, hopeful, and breathtakingly human.

La La Land’s astonishing success does not rest solely on its entertainment value and star power, but on what it represents: the values and ideas that unite us through our common humanity. It’s not preachy, and it doesn’t seek to fill a quota. It’s a story about the consequences of choices and the struggles that can arise when holding fast to a dream. In short, La La Land is cinema at its best.

Hurray for Hollywood?

La La Land also highlights what is noticeably absent from modern cinema. The magic and allure of Hollywood, which once left us spellbound, has been quelled in favor of leftist propaganda and cheap money grabs. The film industry’s desperate urge to fill quotas and make quick cash through reboots and sequels has robbed the film capital of nearly all of its luster, dulling its formerly glimmering finish into an uninspired shade of grey. Moviegoers responded to these trends by voting with their wallets, making 2016 a new low for Hollywood.

This is what makes La La Land so special. If nothing else, the movie serves as a flicker of what could be if the film capital of the world finds itself again.