La La Land

la-la-landDirector: Damien Chazelle
Run Time: 2h 8m
Stars: 5.0

Here’s to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem.

Dreams of making in big in show biz are usually shattered. No matter the outcome, the journey is a tough one full of sacrifice and heartache sprinkled with fleeting glimmers of hope. No one understands this better than jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). He was ousted from his last gig for refusing to conform to the set list. Now he spends his days mourning the loss of his job and the ever dwindling popularity of jazz. Navigating her own trail of disappointment is aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone). She works as a barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She fails audition after audition with nowhere to go but up. That’s when our two protagonists meet. It’s a cold encounter but they manage to run into each other over and over again, and of course end up falling in love. We follow the highs and lows of their relationship and how their respective careers play into it.

La La Land is a simple boy-meets-girl story packaged as a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood. The scale and nostalgia of the film directly reflects the status of Mia and Sebastian’s relationship. In the beginning when their love is blooming, we have big song and dance numbers, enchanting duets, and a waltz among the stars. When things get a little rocky, things slow down and the songs are subdued. No matter the pacing, the music is beautiful and your eyes won’t let your mind be distracted by anything but what’s happening on screen.

There are so many elements to be impressed by. First off, the long takes are technically pleasing as well as visually captivating. The opening number for example opens up on a busy L.A. overpass — the same used in Speed if you were wondering. A girl starts singing and is joined by others as they file out in between the cars to launch a full-fledged choreographed dance in rush hour traffic. Oh, and did I mention it’s one continuous take? Because it is.

Ryan Gosling is also a source of wonder. Yes, he’s handsome and charming, but the man learned to play piano for his role. He didn’t just learn enough to fake it for a few quick cuts to his hands. He mastered the piano to rock out for every song he’s involved in. He became so good that his costar, John Legend, was jealous that Gosling picked up in a few months what Legend had learned after years of classical training. He was incredible.

Gosling’s piano skills were second only to his chemistry with Emma Stone. This is their third film together — previously costarring in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad — and their interactions are effortless. They each have a knack for comedic delivery but they also know how to emotionally charge a scene to move you to tears.

And I was absolutely in love with their love! Sebastian and Mia both had tendencies to be cynical except when it came to each other. They are ridiculously cute together. Consequently it’s this same strong love that makes one realize that with love comes sacrifice. Sometimes love will take you in a direction you didn’t plan on. And what happens when that path takes you further from the dreams you originally had for yourself? Is love truly all you need? Or did The Beatles get it wrong? I loved that this movie explored the beauty of so many things: love, dreams, fear, reality, show biz, Hollywood. But it also showed you the harsh side of them as well, all while being incredibly endearing.

Avid readers all have that one book that is their favorite. You revisit those pages over and over again so the cover is falling off, the pages are tattered and coming loose…but no matter how many times you crack it open, it always feels like home. That familiar feeling brings a smile to your face and you instantly feel better no matter what. I have no doubt La La Land will be the cinematic equivalent of my favorite book. It’s my new favorite film. My new Home. Walking out of the theater I instantly wanted to watch it again. Yes, I cried most of the way home, but it’s a good cry. A cleansing of the senses per se.

I know not everyone is “into musicals”. However I urge you not to let the genre label keep you from seeing La La Land. It’s beautiful and magical and everything you could possibly need. Okay, that may be a bit biased but I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.

Looking for a movie recommendation for a film similar to La La Land? Too bad. Just see this film! … Please?


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