La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle (who IMEM students might know as the director of Whiplash) is the young director’s newest hit, which pays homage to classic Hollywood musicals – and manages to successfully implement all of their energy, heart and brilliance. A large part of that is thanks to Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s amazing lead performance, as well as Justin Hurwitz’s incredible soundtrack.
The story is quite simple – struggling, old-fashioned pianist Sebastian (Gosling) crosses paths with aspiring actress Mia (Stone) in Los Angeles, while both are pursuing their own dreams. Sebastian wants to open his own jazz club, where he can preserve the genre’s core values, while Mia is desperately looking for the big break that will make her a successful actress. The two of course fall in love, but the reality of their careers slowly forces them to drift apart from each other and take some defining choices. Their hardships however are presented in a very unusual way, one that viewers nowadays aren’t used to seeing. From the very first scene of the movie, the foundation for something great is laid – during a traffic jam, the citizens of the megapolis go out of their cars and make the seemingly annoying part of their day into a song and dance, which embodies the belief and need for achieving your dreams in a city, where everything is possible..
It’s rare for any movie to not only deliver on its lofty ambitions, but exceed all expectations. Writer and director Damien Chazelle has followed up Whiplash with a movie that’s just as, if not more brilliant – while the former decided to rely on intensity and the darker corners of the human soul, the later sweeps you off your feet with it’s uniqueness, weaving a profoundly moving tale in the process.
Gosling and Stone are one of the core people to thank for La La Land’s irresistible charm. They work together as a well oiled machine – this being their third movie together, it’s understandable why their chemistry is so undeniable. The interactions, the comedic timing, the way they move together while bursting into a song – all of this fits right in the musical genre, as they always seem on the verge of breaking into a song. Despite the movie seeming starry-eyed and overly sentimental at times, there’s a sincerity to the characters and the story that makes for compelling drama. Their successes and failures, their heartaches and woes, they all resonate, even when the movie threads where so many others, both musicals and romantic comedies, have before.
The musical numbers are lively, elaborate and all around wonderful, with memorable music that will be stuck in your head for days. This is another thing worth mentioning – the songs are so well implemented into the movie, that they seem natural and relaxed – as if this can happen to anyone, at any time. Speech turns into song and then back into speech again – and believe me, not a lot of people can achieve that flow. La La Land embraces both the wide-eyed, boundless optimism and energy of those that dream big, and the crushing lows that come with aspiring for greatness in a remarkably clever way that never feels jarring or misplaced. The ending was so perfect, so natural, so logical, that it literally left me with my mouth open.
The cinematography is bright, distinct and vibrant and the composition of the shots is also flawless – there are enough gorgeous frames in this movie to fill several art galleries. The person to blame for this explosion of color and picturesque scenes is non other than Linus Sandgren, known to viewers from his previous work on American Hustle and Joy. His camera movements and long takes keep you on the edge of your seat at all times, making you want to get up and dance alongside the characters, if you weren’t so caught up in the plot. If there is any fault to be found within La La Land, it is so minimal that it would be barely worth mentioning.
It is worth mentioning that just two days ago La La Land managed to win all seven Golden Globes categories it was nominated in, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Director and Screenplay. It is also a very strong Oscar contender, with very high chances to grab a significant amount of the golden statuettes as well.
As a throwback to a bygone era of Hollywood showmanship, La La Land is outstanding. Anyone with even a passing interest in musicals or cinema in general should see it – it’s that simple. It can even interest those of you who generally dislike musicals – La La Land is unlike anything you’ve seen before, so give it a try and the chances that you like it are very high.