Sometimes there are movies we look back on that get more and more special as time passes. Having some time to reflect on La La Land, I can only say this one is special. There is always room for concern when someone brings up the term musical in modern day film. Gone are the days of great musicals like West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Singin’ In The Rain. The musical, much like the western is a tough sell in today’s times. It has taken director Damien Chazelle to come along and craft something that will stick. La La Land is not only a terrific modern musical, it’s a fun and engaging film that grabs your attention from it’s brilliantly choreographed opening number and never lets you wipe the smile off of your face.
The success of La La Land is largely due to the chemistry and talent of its leads. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who have been paired before, excel in a movie that requires them to command the screen. Mia (Stone) is a struggling actress who is caught drifting from one audition to the next not finding the breakout role she needs. After several serendipitous encounters with Sebastian (Gosling) the two connect as struggling artists who both are focused on the dream. Their chemistry is undeniable and flawless as they sing and dance their way through gorgeously composed shots of Los Angeles near dusk.
Mia and Sebastian are linked through their passion for their craft. Sebastian is chasing a dream that may no longer exist. He is a jazz purist and is furious over the evolution of the genre. Yet, it is his passion to ressurect jazz that makes Mia believe in him and his quest. She often tells him people love people with passion. At its core, La La Land is very much a film about dreamers. It’s core value is tied to its success.
Cinematographer Linus Sandgren and Chazelle have created a love letter to Los Angeles. The film seamlessly makes use of landmarks in L.A., some recognizable to the non-resident, to tell a story through beautiful images and spectacular song and dance.
Chazelle excels in pulling a vintage feeling out of a modern day romance story. In an homage to the work of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, La La Land harkens back to the musicals of the 50’s. The choreography is created with precision and it is always a joy to watch the cast perform it.
La La Land is the film we all deserve right now. It is almost impossible to watch this film and now grin ear to ear for its entirety. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it twice and I can say it is the bette the second time. Chazelle and his songwriting team have crafted irresistible and catchy songs that will be stuck in your head long after you leave the theater. If just for a fleeting two hours, La La Land transports the moviegoer to a world of bright colors and uplifting song and dance. It lets us forget the troubles of the outside world. It is poignant, thoughtful and never by the numbers. La La Land earned its 14 Academy Award nominations, and I would venture to guess you’ll hear its name called quite often come Oscar night.