La La Land
I don’t like musicals. I find them frustrating in the sense that they break into interchangeable songs that slow down the story’s progress. There are a few exceptions, musical movies with great soundtracks: The Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, and maybe a few Disney films. The genre however seems to have died out; the Golden Globe category of Comedy/Musical seems to be geared more towards Comedy than anything else today. But then out of the blue: La La Land.
La La Land is set in contemporary LA, where we follow two aspiring artists. One is Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress who earns her living working at a coffee shop, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with plans to open up his own musical joint. The two bump into each other over the course of a few months, and eventually come to fall in love. The rest of the film recounts their lives in a year.
The young Damien Chazelle, who came into purview recently with his brilliant Whiplash, wrote and directed this film, which was apparently his passion project that had been shunned away by studios until his recent success. Chazelle infuses the film with a sense of nostalgia to the Hollywood films of yore, but at the same time he brings this story into today’s times with little iPhone chimes interrupting our actors frequently. What struck me most however, was how well Chazelle was able to build the emotional structure of the film; he was able to get the audience in the palm of his hand in the first ten minutes of the film.
But as with all musicals there is the importance of the music, and while I found some songs to be a bit repetitive they were nevertheless a joy to hear and sway with in your seat. Both lead actors Stone and Gosling, already with a reputation of great chemistry, are more than capable of matching the film’s artistic ambitions, by putting on great demonstrations of song, dance, and acting. Stone especially will strike most audiences as the star of the show, while Gosling is well utilized as comic relief.
La La Land is the type of movie that many theatergoers will qualify as “magical,” it’s an experience you have to share with strangers. The colorful scenery, fun choreography, and touching story make this one of the best films of the last decade.