- on Sunday, 04 December 2016 14:34
- by Loron Hays
There are few mainstream movies that leave me feeling inspired anymore. I can appreciate a good movie, for sure, but those magical films that leave me electrically charged or near tears are few and far between. La La Land is one of those rare films that somehow cuts through the bullshit and aims directly for the heart. It works. On every single level, La La Land works. The film is imaginative and intense and, as it conceptually "borrows" its opening traffic jam sequence from R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” video (by putting its meaning into one grand motion), isn’t afraid to present and then scramble its influences (Hoagey Carmichael is another) in an effort to produce something worthy of the passion it stimulates. Prepare yourself to be emotionally moved by its old school montages, quick zooms, and its sheer joy.
La La Land is, of course, a modern day musical about a young aspiring actress with a lot of spunk, who currently fixing lattes in a coffee bar somewhere on a studio lot, and a snobbish jazz pianist on a mission to rescue the music he loves by not selling out as he brings it to the masses. It is also the third film in which Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play romantic interests, following Crazy, Stupid, Love and the overlooked Gangster Squad. We aren’t tired of the duo yet. Their chemistry is immediate and, as they literally waltz on the air above the crowded city, makes perfect sense in the context of a highly imaginative musical about people with really BIG dreams. And just like the two characters at the very center of this musical, the musical is unrealistic, ambitious, and charming as hell.
That’s why I love it.
Writer/director Damien Chazelle has seriously made, with this beautifully articulated film, an ode to everything that IS Los Angeles. Yes, it’s a dirty smog-filled city that is already busting at the seams with people, rats, and cars. Yet, dreamers still flock to it. They see its vast expanse from the top of Griffith Park; they see the purple heather-soaked sunsets; they see its poetry in the most insignificant of moments and respond accordingly, believing – like Sebastian and Mia, the characters Stone and Gosling play – that, beneath its skies, Time itself will favor their hopes and dreams.
All of which means we will all be tapping our toes in time with the big bass drum as these two actors fall into each other’s arms while bouncing into orbit among the twilight of Hollywood. With modern-day choreography by Mandy Moore (not THAT one) that wisely emphasizes emotion over technique and music composed and orchestrated by Justin Hurwitz, La La Land nails each and every single one of its breathtaking dance numbers. It is a movie that weaves both the magic and the mistakes of two actors who aren't dancers or singers INTO the film. They laugh, you laugh. The opening is a 7-minute SINGLE, orchestrated take high upon a jammed freeway and is so perfect in its execution that you’ll wish you could immediately pause the film and watch it again, just to see how it was pulled off.
And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. La La Land is all about pulling back the curtain.
Hollywood doesn’t seem to believe in itself anymore. That’s probably why a lot of what comes out from its smog-filled skies fails to resonate like it used to. I mean, that’s definitely why studios are practically cleaned out of new ideas and why movie fans like me have shifted to smaller, budget-friendly films to throw their attention (and their praise) at instead of every single blockbuster we are expected to bow to. Chazelle, going old school, delivers what is bound to be an award-winning response to their cynicism and disbelief, though. And, trust me, La La Land is worth putting on repeat.
La La Land is a wake-up call. You will listen and you will see. You will hear Chazelle throughout the ups and downs of the romance within La La Land and you will praise its storytelling and the magic that it casts out upon its audience. And you will wish upon a star. I say this assuredly because its type of perfection is rare and exceptional, reminding dreamers of why the night is such a vibrant place not to dream, but to LIVE.
La La Land will leave you wishing to dance across the unspoiled midnight sky you once shared with your first real love. It will be this year’s Best Picture winner, my friends. The tone it achieves is pitch-perfect and so utterly refreshing that, as you exit the theater, you will swear by its CinemaScope-shot clouds that you’re actually floating all the way home...
...even if it is just another day of sun.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Runtime: 128 mins
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt
Genre: Comedy | Musical
Tagline: Here's to the fools who dream..
Memorable Movie Quote: "Yeah, I see the decorations. Good luck in the New Year."
Theatrical Distributor: Lionsgate
Official Site: http://www.lalaland.movie/
Release Date: December 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
No details available.