I went to see La La Land five times in a row on Friday and reviewed it after every time on Funny Or Die’s Snapchat. Here’s the video of the Snap story followed by a detailed recap of my entire 14 hour day at the movie theater.
Expectations Before It Started
I went into this expecting to not like La La Land very much, even though I thought Damien Chazelle’s last movie Whiplash was one of the best films that year, and understanding I probably wouldn’t like it at all after watching it five times in a row. I predicted I would enjoy it less each time, but figured there might be some ups and downs as the day progressed. I was also not too excited about the prospect of spending 14 hours in a movie theater on a Friday, but couldn’t be too upset since I came up with this dumb idea and volunteered myself to do it. I was also feeling very concerned about the logistics of shooting Snapchat reviews in between showings by myself and concerned the theater might kick me out if they didn’t want me filming anywhere near their property.
Thoughts After The First ‘La La Land’ Screening
As the first scene of La La Land started, a musical number on the freeway, I got a terrible knot in my stomach realizing what I was getting myself into. I have never watched a movie five times in a row and, while I knew this was a musical going in, the realization that every song I was about to hear I’d have to hear four more times set in like an emotional atom bomb at 10:15 in the morning. I realized I would have to see these freeway dancers dancing around a freeway four more times and by the final time I would be so happy to see them because it would be the last time I ever saw them, probably for the rest of my life. That’s where I was at minute one.
The anxiety stuck with me for the rest of the screening. I couldn’t fully enjoy the movie or absorb everything that was going on because I kept thinking about how pointless this whole thing was and how much more La La Land I would have to sit through that day. I was critical of the costume choices that felt almost cartoony and the scenes of Los Angeles parties. I’ve been to a lot of parties in LA, but I’ve never been to one where all the guys are all in full suits around a pool. Do these parties really exist and I’m just never invited? Is this what people think Los Angeles is like? I had so many questions.
The stuff that stuck out as glaringly annoying to me was when Emma Stone’s Prius was right in front of them while they were dancing looking for her car (even though they kind of explain it away with a joking line) and the scene in the Griffith Observatory where they walk right in after hours then float dance around the galaxy. Someone at work had previously mentioned the line where Ryan Gosling turns down a potential date because she probably won’t like jazz, so it wasn’t too jarring to my brain when it happened, but it was still extremely dumb.
All of that said, I enjoyed La La Land a lot after the first screening. The story about looking for love and chasing your dreams in Los Angeles, and the sacrifices you’ll make along the way, resonated with me personally. The way it structurally unfolds over the course of a year, with an ending that surprises you by advancing the plot five years, was a fresh way to do a traditional musical. It felt a little long, which was odd because Whiplash was so wonderfully Spartan, but I knew the runtime going in and guessed that would likely be the case. On my way out I told the guys working the concession stand that I would see them again in 30 minutes for the next one. They seemed confused by that.
Thoughts After The Second ‘La La Land’ Screening
In an effort to make this experience more interesting to myself, and for the folks following along on Funny Or Die’s Snapchat, I bought a seat for the second screening directly next to a stranger who was also seeing the movie alone. I went next door to Amoeba to get them a copy of the soundtrack to hopefully make friends. My mind was blown when I sat down next to my seat neighbor and, after telling him what I was up to, learned he was a LA based cinematographer named Mai on his fifth viewing of the film. What are the fucking odds of that? He seemed stoked about getting a free copy of the soundtrack.
Much to my surprise, I enjoyed La La Land more the second time around. The anxiety of this day and the task at hand was starting to subside, and I already knew I liked this movie, so it was easier to watch and enjoy it for what it is. I found myself paying close attention to the long shots. The costumes that previously annoyed me now felt like very deliberate reflections of the characters in their various emotional states throughout the story. The Griffith Observatory scene still pissed me off and I took my first mid-film bathroom break of the day when it was done. John Legend made me laugh out loud the entire time he was on screen.
I picked up a lot of things I didn’t really notice the first time around. I was so lost in my head thinking about the mountain I was climbing during the first screening that I zoned out for the part where Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone say they’re always going to love each other before we skip five years into the future. That’s a pretty important line to totally miss. I also had a richer appreciation for the role Ryan Gosling’s car horn played as their relationship unfolds, from a chance encounter on the freeway all the way up until he drives Emma Stone to the audition that will bring them together again only to ultimately tear them apart.
I chatted with Mai for a few minutes after the screening and asked him what I should look for on my third consecutive La La Land viewing that was about to start. He said he was able to focus on the long shots and see how they were accomplished by stitching shorter shots together with computers to make it feel seamless. He clarified he still loves the movie, he just had more time to notice the way it was made on round three. Mai also shared his story with me about what it’s like being a cinematographer in Los Angeles chasing his own dreams and it added a nice layer of human texture to this second viewing. I made sure we got a picture together before I set up for round three.
Thoughts After The Third ‘La La Land’ Screening
I noticed myself getting increasingly antsy during my third consecutive La La Land screening. It was hard to physically sit still and I was losing some basic motor skills and cognitive functions. I tried to take notes during my bathroom breaks (I took two during this screening even though I didn’t really have to pee) but when I went to read them later they were largely illegible jumbles of letters.
When I went to get more coffee during one of my breaks, the guy working the concession stand was increasingly curious about what I was doing and why I was doing it. I didn’t really have a good explanation for either. Also, I’m sure some of you might think that this day at the movies would be a chance to stuff my face with all kinds of delicious snacks, but I’m a type 1 diabetic so that was never really in the cards. I got a small thing of popcorn during this screening, the only popcorn I would have all day. I spilled a surprising amount of it all over myself trying to shove it in my mouth in the dark and injected myself with insulin at my seat, both to make sure my blood sugar didn’t spike but also to make sure I could still feel something.
I liked the third screening more than the first, because I no longer had any anxiety about the project and knew I had turned a corner on being halfway done, but less than the second. The movie that once felt long was flying by, similar to how coming back from somewhere always feels shorter than going because you know the distance you’ll be traveling. The dumb parties in LA felt normal to me (which is what actually happens in real life in Los Angeles) and I didn’t even notice the costumes anymore. I also found myself humming along to some of the musical numbers. The five years from now final act that hit me like a ton of bricks the first time was now just a formality to signify this viewing was almost over
There was also some poignant personal irony sinking in on my third consecutive La La Land viewing. I was watching a movie all about following your passions vs. some bullshit to pay rent and this exercise felt like a little bit of both. Watching a movie five times in a row was my idea, and I stand by it as a funny one, but running outside to record Snapchat reviews in public made me feel like a real asshole. It was also nighttime on a Friday and I started seeing people I actually know outside the theater. Some of them knew what I was doing and wished me luck. One friend made direct eye contact from a distance, saw what I was going through, and steered clear entirely.
Thoughts After The Fourth ‘La La Land’ Screening
The fourth screening of La La Land was brutal. It was, by far, the hardest one of all these screenings and it also felt the longest. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. I just kept thinking that as soon as it ended, there would be more La La Land right away. I think I got up to use the bathroom three or four times. Sitting still felt agonizing and the music was making me feel crazy.
At one point, I was pretty sure I lost my mind. I kept thinking of funny things I could talk about during the Snaps after this screening, but my brain couldn’t hold on to a single thought. The second an idea formed, it evaporated. It was incredibly frustrating and I panicked that I wouldn’t have a single thing to say when it came time to check in with Snapchat. I fired off some tweets every time I walked to the bathroom to try and have at least something I could refer to since my brain was literally shutting down. I tweeted something about my brain feeling like it was being fucked by a flaccid pterodactyl penis and wound up using that line for Snapchat.
The staff working the concession stand, who had gone through several shift changes at this point, were incredibly nice and accommodating. They handed me free cups of water when I walked by like I was running a marathon. Word had gotten around what I was doing and there was a palpable mix of pity and general interest. This theater serves alcohol and I started drinking. One guy at the concession stand told me I’m the only person he’s ever seen order a coffee, water, and red wine all together then come back and order the same thing again during the same movie.
I also spent a lot of the fourth screening in a kind of emotional vortex thinking about all the failed relationships I’ve been in during my adult life in Los Angeles. The film’s themes of love and loss and what could’ve been were punching my soul. This experience was breaking me and the five-year jump at the end almost made me cry. I also spent some time wondering why I didn’t do this idea with a screener from the comfort of my living room. I tried to close my eyes and fall asleep multiple times but I was too wired and the music was too loud. And it just felt kind of weird to be sleeping by myself in a public place, even if it was dark.
Even though the fourth screening was an arduous mental march through my romantic regrets fueled by red wine and coffee, I still liked La La Land. And it still had me feeling inspired to chase my dreams in Los Angeles and fall in love, even if neither of those things will come to fruition the way I want or last forever. As cynical as I was expecting to be going into this day, I really still did like La La Land. But this whole thing was making me go insane.
Thoughts After The Fifth ‘La La Land’ Screening
When the freeway dancers showed up for the final time, I was so happy to see them. I knew this mess was almost over. Thank god. The whole final screening was a blur, I just sat there and let it wash over me like a lukewarm shower with shitty water pressure. I think I went to the bathroom once every 30 minutes, sitting still was something I physically could no longer do.
I decided my favorite character in the movie was J. K. Simmons, but the version of himself at the very end because his little head dance is super fun and it means the movie was about to be over. John Legend’s character felt increasingly ridiculous each time, because he’s kind of the only villain in the story but all he does is give Ryan Gosling a great career opportunity and steady employment. Doesn’t seem very villainous to me! Also, they set him up as having some kind of backstory with Ryan Gosling but it never pays off. That irritated me way more than it should’ve.
The second it was done, I ran out of the theater and recorded two quick sign off messages for Snapchat and got my ass home. It was midnight and I had been at the movie theater for 14 hours. I felt like shit. I ultimately concluded La La Land is a great movie, but would not suggest seeing it five times in a row. I ranked the screenings in order from most favorite to least favorite: 2, 3, 1, 5 and 4.
I thought the most torturous aspects of this would be sitting through the movie five times in a row, but this whole thing had some unexpected consequences over the rest of my weekend. The music was stuck in my head and I couldn’t make it stop, but not any one song in particular. They were all just kind of playing at once constantly. The songs of La La Land were the last thing I heard before I went to sleep and the first thing I heard in the morning. I listened to loud music on headphones to make it stop. I had a nagging urge to visit the Griffith Observatory and noticed that looking at palm trees gave me anxiety and driving on the freeway made me hear the music even louder. I also spent some time wondering why, after buying four single tickets in a row to the same movie, the app I used to buy movie theater tickets didn’t check with me to make sure I was OK. Feels like some kind of failsafe should’ve kicked in. I think I’m going to do this again next month when A Dog’s Purpose comes out. See you guys at the movies!
EDITOR’S NOTE: In light of recent leaked video footage of a dog being abused on the set of A Dog’s Purpose, I will not be seeing that movie for my next Five In A Row Review. Fuck those guys. I’ll probably see John Wick 2 instead. Also, I was going to watch A Dog’s Purpose with an emotional support dog for one of the screenings, I still plan on doing this for John Wick 2.