La La Land (2016) Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone. IMDB says: “A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.”
Just a few months ago, I was exploring Los Angeles, a city I’d seen in so many films. Leaving the theater, I told Lindsay how this made me so nostalgic and eager to return. It was just so dreamy and picturesque in La La Land that I could not help but be wistful for the city of palm trees and film locations. Lindsay asked “was it really that pretty though?” and I had to respond that heck no, it certainly was not. And that’s the truth, there are certainly very attractive and interesting parts but a lot of it is your standard dirty city blocks. La La Land though is perhaps the most flattering I’ve ever seen the city in film, especially a modern one. It is the city of dreamers and artists that inhabit the film, and the romantic setting for two lovers uniting over song and dance.
La La Land is a lovely film experience. It is the most traditional treatment of a modern musical that I’ve seen. The choreography, lyrics, and song have an older fashioned feel without any contemporary pop numbers thrown in. It feels so fresh though because it is grounded in modern time with a relatable story. Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress (paying the bills as a barista) who seems disenchanted with the constant auditions that lead nowhere. She happens to overhear jazz musician and aspiring club owner, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) playing a gorgeous piano tune and their story begins. They are drawn to each other with a playful antagonism that reveals an infatuation.
Stone and Gosling have solidified that they are one of our only staple movie couples, something that feels like a relic from classic Hollywood. It goes so perfectly with this homage-filled film. Their chemistry is so organic and playful that you root for them from the start. Both actors give wonderful performances including impressive song and dance skills for relative newbies. Stone’s emotive face and strong features are so striking as she performs, especially on her solo numbers. Gosling has the handsome ease of many musical love interests that have come before him. They are starry-eyed for each other and their aspirations. Mia is a film lover who came to LA with a romantic idea about the possibilities of Hollywood. Sebastian is devoted to jazz music and preserving what makes it such a vital genre.
This is a feel good, romantic, and at times bittersweet, film that is just entertaining from start to finish. Damien Chazelle told a very dark, intimate story in Whiplash, but this is a similar take on passion done on a bright, large scale. It shows a huge range of talent and ambition. The cinematography is so gorgeous at times, it deserves to be seen on the large screen. Along with the memorable music crafted by Justin Hurwitz and a pair of great performances, you have one of the best films of the year.
FTS SCORE: 88%
La La Land is currently in theaters nationwide.