Friday, January 6, 2017

La La Land: Movie Review


A movie of love, music and soul.
La La Land couldn’t have a more fitting title. An homage to LA, but more than that, an homage to the dreamers of LA and the life-as-a-musical that they could have. La La Land sells itself strictly as a romantic musical. The characters sing and dance as they fall in love – and even if that’s all it is, it would still be a pretty good movie. It's a movie that survives on the pure cinematic experience, but also provides a bit of soul. 2016

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Screenplay by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

The design of La La Land can’t go unnoticed. The opening scene takes place on a sweltering hot day in the middle of a traffic jam on a packed highway. We’re all familiar with this image of LA, which all of its residents complain about, but this movie decides it’s the perfect time to start an ensemble dance number. Emma Stone in a colourful dress singing on top of her car. There’s a lot of charm to be found here, and that comes through in all of her scenes.

Emma Stone stars as ‘Mia’ in LA LA LAND,
an Entertainment One release. Photo Credit: Dale Robinette
The film’s colour concepts and set design are all perfectly simplistic. Mia is always in a one-tone, brightly coloured sun dress, the world outside is always sunny and energetic. Even when her plans as an aspiring actress aren’t unfolding as she would have liked, life is still good for the up-beat Mia. The flip-side of Mia is her soon-to-be-other-half, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). His world is just as intricately designed as hers.

Seb has become a bit more cynical in his unfulfilled dream of becoming a successful jazz pianist. He wears gray, he lives in a poorly lit, unfurnished one-room apartment, and works nightly gigs in a dark restaurant with a boss that swears at him, and has no problem firing him just before Christmas when he refuses to follow directions. Meeting Mia is a spark that is great for Seb and the film.

Gosling and Stone have already certified their great on-screen chemistry, and the film doesn’t waste much time in establishing that. Their courtship is going to follow the standard trajectory of the genre, so it just does. Their first few scenes of meeting are probably some of the best of the movie. Highlighting the beauty of the city around them as Mia and Seb both think about realizing their dreams of success together. After a party as they walk and walk, attempting to find their parked cars, is the first rendition of City of Stars. A fun and beautiful song which really anchors the themes of the movie.

Ryan Gosling stars as Sebastian in LA LA LAND,
an Entertainment One release.
\A major theme of the movie is the differences in Mia and Seb’s approaches to achieving their dreams – it directly mirrors the differences in Mia and Seb’s personality when we meet them, and this, in particular, is where the impressiveness in Gosling’s performance comes through. You can see in everything he does, the slow evolution of his character. A man who believes in jazz as a pure art-form and against success for the sake of success, but then falls in love with a girl willing to try anything, and his horizons start shifting.

La La Land isn’t pure fun and games. Their relationship is doomed for failure and the looming knowledge that most dreams don’t come to fruition in LA, but that’s where the soul of movie comes in. There’s a cynicism to La La Land that the genre rarely sees and that the film is rarely credited for, but it helps give it an edge, makes it easier to digest for today’s modern dreamers.