La La Land review
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Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Director: Damien Chazelle
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 16, 2016
You know that feeling when you believe that you can walk on air? When everything around you seems like it’s bursting with energy? When you feel like moving and dancing and singing without a care in the world? That feeling that makes you feel happy about being alive?
That’s the exact way you feel after seeing La La Land, writer-director Damien Chazelle’s sensational and exquisite follow-up film to 2014’s Whiplash. A monumental achievement, La La Land is not only the best film of the year, but it is also the most fun, stirring, vibrant, and ambitious piece of work in a long, long time.
Our story revolves around Mia, an aspiring actress, trying to fit in casting auditions while managing her side job as a barista, and Sebastian, a ‘Joe-Cool’ pianist and jazz enthusiast. As they both keep bumping into each other by accident and destiny seems to be bringing them together, the two fall in love. But as they pursue their careers and continually become more successful, they struggle to balance their dreams with their romance.
Immediately drawing you into their characters, Gosling and Stone are enchanting the whole way through. Stone’s quirkiness shines with the little details of her character; everything from her timely one-liners to the charming faces she makes complete what is the best performance of her career. As for Gosling, his jazzy charisma is a fantastic counterpart to Stone, while his rousing playing on the piano, which he learned to play for the film, is sensational. When both actors have their big moments, whether it be in Stone’s “Audition” or Gosling’s mesmerizing “Epilogue”, they beg to be seen. And when the both of them jointly come together in sequences such as their euphoric, otherworldly dance at Griffith Observatory, their chemistry is so irresistible.
Damien Chazelle’s direction and precise control of his vision proves he is one of the best filmmakers currently working today. His screenplay is witty and sharp, knowing when to be funny and lighthearted and when to be melancholy. But, despite the tone or mood, Chazelle’s writing and vision always remains absorbing. Transporting the audience to a different world, he immerses you within the hidden beauty of Los Angeles.
Accompanying the performances and direction, the music of the movie by Justin Hurwitz is the cherry on top. The musical numbers, both intimate and grand, truly make you want to get up from your seat and start dancing. I can’t remember the last time there was a musical with so many intriguing numbers. Whether they are sentimental or upbeat, a ballad or a chorus, the songs stay with you the hours and days after the movie is over: the lyrics and melodies lingering in your head.
Looking at the entire scope of the film, magical is the only way to describe it all – the colors, cinematography, editing, direction – it’s all out of a dream. As a love letter to the timeless musicals of old Hollywood, La La Land certainly joins the ranks of giants as an instant classic. You can’t help but compare it to movies like Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, Swing Time, and An American In Paris. So nostalgic yet so contemporary, the film reminds us why more stories like it need to be told.
After a year which was so stark, bitter, and angry, both in the movies and the real world, La La Land is the burst of energy, color, spirit and love that has been so desperately needed. La La Land shows us that our world is inevitably challenging and, at times, will get us down, but we can choose to make it joyous if we remind ourselves to enjoy the moment once in awhile. As is sung in the prologue of the film, “Another Day of Sun”: “Climb these hills / I’m reaching for the heights / And chasing all the lights that shine / And when they let you down / You’ll get up off the ground / ‘Cause morning rolls around / And it’s another day of sun”
So, if you choose to go on that journey to La La Land, and you just so happen to choose to stay there, you’ll find yourself leaving the theater and walking back into the world with a grin on your face, a bit of strut in your step, and a spark in your heart.