La La Land Reviewed
Damien Chazelle, previously known best for his direction of 2014’s Whiplash, wrote and directed La La Land. The story follows an aspiring actress named Mia (Emma Stone) who serves coffee on a Hollywood lot, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician forced to play Christmas jingles and songs from 80s hair bands to make money. Mia and Sebastian are chasing their dreams, but as they start achieving professional success their relationship begins to suffer. Ugh, just typing that sentence started giving me the feels.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were not picked for their Broadway prowess. The songs they sing are fine, but if musical talent had been the number one focus, they probably would’ve cast someone else. The director needed strong performances to achieve the story he wanted; he needed the look in his performers’ eyes while they were singing more than the actual singing. The same could be said for their dancing—while the tap dancing scenes are god damn adorable, their moves are rudimentary. Then again, their characters aren’t professional song and dance people either—Mia is an actress while Sebastian plays the piano (which apparently Gosling spent two hours a day six days a week learning so they wouldn’t have to use a hand double), so it makes sense. But Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s chemistry can’t be denied and it serves as the lynchpin of the movie.
La La Land is by no means a typical movie musical. For one it’s an original story (rather than an adaptation) paying homage to classics like Singin’ in the Rain and Swing Time. In that vein, the movie’s soundtrack is mostly made up of jazz music and it is fantastic. For those who say they hate jazz, wait and hold judgement until Ryan Gosling’s character can explain to you why you shouldn’t. The musicians in the movie are absolutely incredible, including the likes of John Legend, who has a relatively important part in the story.
The final moments of the movie are what stand out to me as beautiful. All of the musical numbers build towards a final sequence that will stick with you well after you walk out of the theater. Chazelle did a similar thing in Whiplash, but in La La Land he has the brooding eyes of Ryan Gosling to stare into your soul and ravage your insides.
La La Land gives the movie musical genre new life, with a vibrant story set to an absolutely gorgeous score. Two years ago Damien Chazelle made my favorite movie of the year. This time around, with the addition of amazing performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, he made an early contender for the Best Picture. A