I like to watch all of the films that are nominated for best picture before the Academy Awards ceremony, so I went into La La Land with a critical eye. I exited the theater, however, with a sudden urge to dance in the stars while humming some inspired musical numbers.
La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) tells the story of a struggling actress named Mia (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz pianist named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who meet while pursuing their dreams in modern day Los Angeles.
Hope, heartache, success and failure are intertwined in this melodious delight that examines if one can truly have their cake and eat it too. There is a realistic undertone to the narrative that is atypical and genuine compared to candid tales where things are way, way down in the dumps simply because things didn’t go as planned.
Much like Whiplash, the music in the film is a character, which makes the transition from talking to singing utterly seamless. I assumed the backdrop of the movie was old time Hollywood but was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of its contemporary setting since it tends to be golden age era of stories where a romantic sheen of elegant wonder is applied.
La La Land’s 128 minute run time uses every frame to justify its 14 Oscar nominations. The dance choreography looks anything but rehearsed and works in tandem with the sleek and stylish aesthetics of the film. Damien Chazelle’s direction takes the viewer on several emotional journeys that are captivating to no end.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were perfectly charming in their respective roles. So perfect in fact that it’s impossible to picture anyone else as Mia and Sebastian, even Emma Watson and Miles Teller who were originally cast for the roles.
Gosling brings a classy conviction as a musician who is seemingly in a losing battle against the modernism of his musical genre. Stone is magnetic and infuses the film with an infectious energy that defies her struggles in landing that breakout Hollywood part.
In many ways, La La Land defies convention without making it obvious. It’s love without the fairy tale romance, celebration with inherent glamor and art-vs.-commerce minus the textbook exposition. The wonderful musical numbers tie it all together, making for an imaginative movie theater experience.
Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to listen to the soundtrack while learning how to tap-dance on YouTube.