MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “La La Land” stars Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys, The Notebook), Emma Stone (Birdman: Or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance], The Help), John Legend (Soul Men, Loverboy), and J.K. Simmons (Whiplash , Spider-Man ). It is written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash , 10 Cloverfield Lane). Mia (Stone), is an aspiring actress, wanting to be a part of the big leagues in Hollywood. Sebastian (Gosling) is a pianist, hungry for an opportunity to make jazz big again. Once these two cross paths, they spark a journey of passion and what it takes to make it to fame.
“La La Land” has been on my mind to see for the past few months. When the first trailer arrived, I was wowed and incredibly interested. Sure, it was a short video full of very little clips, but the cinematography, color tones, and cast reeled me in from the get-go. Plus, it’s from the director of “Whiplash,” so why wouldn’t I get excited? Before I knew it, more clips and information were being released, and I began to realize what direction this film was headed. Not only is it a musical, but an homage to the classics themselves. I’m a sucker for throwbacks, though I will say that the musical aspect was iffy. Musicals aren’t on the top of my list in terms of genres, nor are they even a category I think of when asked about films I enjoy. However, every now and then there are certain musical that go above and beyond their genre; ones that I fall for and hold onto dearly. After viewing “La La Land,” I can safely say that this is one of those circumstances. The music is rich, alive, and makes your feet tap to the beat. What makes it all the better is how it blends into its story, rather than feeling incredibly obnoxious. Some may disagree with me after seeing this, especially after viewing the opening number, but this is where you pull abstract ideas from the feature; the moment where you realize that this is both a love letter to and a saddening reveal of Hollywood, and what it means to pursue your dreams. Being a filmmaker-in-the-making, I took this theme to heart, and learned a lot from this movie; however, I will say that it took me a while to fully admire and fall in love with this release. The first half of this film whisks you away on a nostalgia trip, bestowing us a taste of the classics, with traditional, stylistic transitions and insane music numbers involving people dancing/singing in streets and at parties. This served as an introduction to both our characters, who are fleshed out in two separate times during the film instead of the same time. It was often unpredictable, as I tried to figure out where this story was going. For a long time I was just floating, viewing a visual spectacle and trying to pull apart its meaning before the feeling of disappointment creeped up on me. It’s not like the first half was bad; it just wasn’t what I expected/hoped for. I never gave up hope though, for there was something behind this; I could feel it. Sure enough, the second half unraveled and eased all my troubles. As I progressed through this feature, it got better and better, and I think that belongs to the fact that it becomes more realistic and surreal. The characters take form of people we would see in real life; not cardboard cut-outs who sing their dialogue and shrug off their problems. I began to learn more about Hollywood as an industry, as well as how much of an art form jazz is. Questions of passion and willpower are asked, and our characters’ adventure together is what answers them. Once everything was taking shape and the ending came on the horizon, I understood why the first half was the way it was: all of this isn’t physical logic. The story doesn’t go from point A to point B, giving us a concrete plot that we can follow strictly. Many of the elements used in this release are metaphorical and sly. All that is shown to be a classic musical really throws shade at the typical, traditional Hollywood influenced production as it attempts to wedge itself into the modern era. The director took immense inspiration from the classics, as he is a fan, but he also built on them; made them better and earthy in a sleek design. It’s as if he was fooling us with a fantasy in the beginning, only to smack us with reality the closer we got to the conclusion. If audiences read this film as a way of speaking a message rather than merely telling a story of guy meets girl, then they will surely appreciate it more; I know I do. The ending will definitely cause a division amongst moviegoers, but in my mind it couldn’t have made more sense than it did. Without spoiling it, let’s just say that it’ll confuse the heck out of you, then give you an “a-ha” moment worth the price of admission. Digging into the basic aesthetics and work put into making this movie, everything was fantastic. The cinematography and direction were wonderful. I loved how this release looked and felt, giving off a jazzy undertone and rich atmosphere through color grading and music. The songs themselves are worth listening to more than once, as well as the score. It bewilders me how Gosling and Stone can sing, but then again the director needed actors to do so anyway (though Gosling’s piano playing is truly spectacular). Speaking of the cast, everyone did a great job. I enjoyed all of the performances, and Gosling and Stone couldn’t have had better chemistry than they did. Damian Chazelle has done it once again, as his second outing to the big screen is better than his first (and his first was great too). This is a director you have to look out for in the future. To wrap everything up, this movie is simply fantastic. With beautiful cinematography, great acting, catchy music, and an undertone of Hollywood that really sucks you in, “La La Land” is a must-see. If you absolutely abhor musicals, you may not like it (as there is singing in it), but if you are a lover of classic Hollywood or the hard facts behind it realistically, then check it out. Besides a few dry spots in the beginning, this is an absolutely terrific experience. FINAL SCORE: 95%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: