REVIEW: La La Land (2016)

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2016, Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/Gilbert Films/Impostor Pictures/Marc Platt Productions

Director:
Damian Chazelle
Producers:
Marc Platt
Fred Berger
Gary Gilbert
Jordan Horowitz
Writer:
Damian Chazelle
Cinematography:
Linus Sandgren
Editing:
Tom Cross

Cast:
Ryan Gosling (Sebastian)
Emma Stone (Mia)
John Legend (Keith)
Rosemarie DeWitt (Laura)
Finn Wittrock (Greg)
J.K. Simmons (Bill)
Callie Hernandez (Tracy)
Jessica Rothe (Alexis)
Sonoya Mizuno (Caitlin)
Jason Fuchs (Carlo)
Tom Everett Scott (David)

This Oscar-winning homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age of Musicals has enough drive to satisfy the viewer, yet it seems a bit overrated.

Mia is an aspiring actress who works at a coffee shop and attempts to get to audition in between shifts. Sebastian is a local jazz pianist who has dreams to become successful and one day, open his own club. When these two meet in the middle of a traffic jam, little do they know what’s in store for them. When Mia goes out with her friends, she has her car towed and going home by foot, she runs into Sebastian, who blows her off when he is fired from his job as a pianist at a local club. When the duo meet months later, they soon find they have more in common than they expect and fall in love.

As the two fall in love and continue to make their dreams come true, they start out small. Mia decides to take a risk by writing a one-woman play while to help get a steady income, Sebastian joins his friend’s jazz-fusion band as their keyboard player. When both of their ideas falter, it causes a massive rift in their relationship. Will these two finally be able to succeed in both their dreams and their relationship?

This film can be said to be filmmaker Damian Chazelle’s dream film as he originally came up with the idea in 2010 and after six years, the film finally was brought to life. Much like its central theme, Chazelle’s dream came true with the film. While it pays homage to the golden age of the musical in Hollywood, complete with the film opening with the “Filmed in Cinemascope” card, it is more subtle rather than completely spectacular. If this is what Chazelle was intending to do and make a straightforward story mixed with musical numbers, he succeeds there.

It takes two prolific actors to drive the film in the central roles of Mia and Sebastian, two aspiring people who struggle to make their dreams come true while keeping their relationship intact. Thankfully, the chemistry between stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is the driving force of the film. Gosling and Stone, who have worked together before in the films Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, so that level of comfort is there and it is clear why Stone would go on to win her Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe for Best Actress because she was great in the role of an actress who goes through any obstacle to make her dreams come true even if Gosling’s aspiring pianist resorts to doing things he is uninterested in.

The musical numbers are a bit of a mixed bag. While some of the songs are not exactly spectacular, one thing that is spectacular, or rather two things, are two nicely shot dance sequences between Gosling and Stone. Their first dance sequence together is beautifully shot and choreographed with a follow-up, taking place in the Griffith Observatory is a gravity-defying dance sequence that is beautifully done. What Chazelle does as a finale truly breaks the stereotype of this genre of film and brings an aspect of realism to the film.

La La Land is not a spectacular musical like its classics of the genre. However, it is a subtle look at reality and aspirations, all driven by the wonderful and comfortable performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It is definitely a film to take a look at, but it is a bit overrated. Fun nonetheless.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD/BLU-RAY

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