Film Review: Spirited, Visually Stunning “La La Land” is a Joyous Cinematic Celebration of Love
By Anthony Hernandez
La La Land is, without a doubt, one of the most visually stunning, emotionally fulfilling and fully realized cinematic experiences in years. And it’s easily one of best films of the 2016. If the current awards buzz is to be believed (believe it), and if the narrative holds (it probably will), La La Land could be named the best picture of the year at the Oscars. Maybe – but that’s another story.
This is an easy movie to watch, and even easier to love. It’s a movie made with good-intentions that actually translates into something more than just that – something magical; something grand. It’s the whole package; despite how it’s made up of classic, sometimes tired themes from a bygone era of filmmaking that have been repurposed for the modern age. In fact, take out the modern technologies and references and this movie could have easily been made in the 50’s, with a style and grace reminiscent of the classic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris.
Our story begins where it ends. It’s set in modern day Los Angeles – a city known for crushing the dreams of the hopeful. Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician – are both struggling to make ends meet. They have a chance encounter that inevitably leads to romance, joy, and even some heartache. It’s a simple story with a lot of power – and much of that is thanks to Chazelle’s direction and original story, as well as the incomparable on-screen chemistry between the actors. Granted, they’re no Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but Gosling and Stone rarely have a misstep, though lack some of the stamina to carry the full weight of every musical set-piece. Emma Stone, is the best thing about La La Land, and – when contrasted with her fiery turn and Oscar nominated supporting performance in Best Picture winner Birdman – should be nominated for Best Actress this year.
Director Damien Chazelle, who is coming off his surprise hit and Oscar winning Whiplash, doesn’t just rehash the old and package it with the new. He takes the genre and turns it back in on itself, with forced introspection and a modern story that we can all probably relate to; and even if you can’t relate, that won’t stop you from being moved in some way. Being that this is only his second film, Chazelle’s innovative style, intensity, and knack for simple, yet captivating movie-going experiences should be lauded.
Gorgeously constructed moments of razzle-dazzle transition effortlessly into a character driven story that feels true. It’s not the reinvention of the movie musical that will change your life. It’s more than that. It’s an elegant experience that we can return to. It’s a film that resonates – in moments, fleeting and wonderful – and it will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. It’s a film that dares to amaze without losing substance. La La Land isn’t just a love letter to musicals, or even cinema as a whole – it’s a love letter to the audience and our willingness to be swept away, entirely.
In a time of such turmoil and uncertainty, La La Land offers us the proof we’re looking for. That no matter the struggles we face, the world is still a wonderful place where inspiration and determination are awarded, falling in love still happens, and sometimes – just maybe – there’s still magic left in the world. Sure, it’s just a feeling; but it’s a nice feeling to have.
I really loved this movie.
La La Land
Run Time: 128 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some language
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Finn Wittrock
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writers: Damien Chazelle