La La Land Movie Review

Swooping into the bleak crop of 2016 films that mostly reflect many of life’s darker more polluted struggles, LA LA LAND breathes a welcome relief of breezy fresh air.  Meshing old Hollywood musicals with a modern day jazz heartbeat, LA LA LAND is a downright triumph.

Struggling jazz pianist, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), has the talent but refuses to conform to societies outlook of elevator jazz music.  Restricted to a bland playlist as a background ambiance at a fancy restaurant, Sebastian struggles with allowing his passion to be choked out refusing to play by the rules.  Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress whose closest interaction to a big role is working at a coffee shop located on a Hollywood movie lot. Audition after audition, Mia is just another passed over number trying to catch a break.  Sebastian and Mia cross paths at charming odds before their hearts begin to take over. Their goals and aspirations might be interfering with true love, but their journey of artistic inspiration is enchanting.

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone in La La Land

Calling back to a time where the art of film was more about an escape from the real world, LA LA LAND is pure joyful entertainment. The simplicity of ‘guy falls for girl’ has been told millions of times over, but the energy and colorful beauty that writer and director Damien Chazelle is able to capture is magical. LA LA LAND flows effortlessly carried by a musical score infused with jazz that will have you rediscovering the classically impassioned and improvisational prominent sound either for the first time or all over again.

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone in La La Land

The film teeters into the generic range about three quarters of the way into the film once the truer conflict arises.  Up until that point, LA LA LAND had surprisingly side-stepped the heavy laden, old love story tropes with exciting new flare. I’d like to think the choice to pull the reigns in creative story-telling, represents the plummeting foundation of reality compared to the high rise of dreams displayed in the rest of the film.  A concept that I fully appreciate and admire, but I found myself crashing with slight boredom rather than with a sympathetic emotional response.  However, LA LA LAND quickly corrects its course from that slight criticism with an ending that is visually and musically moving in elegant story-telling harmony that unites a clever surrealistic approach to life’s reality.

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone in La La Land

What makes old musicals like the great SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN or the lesser AN AMERICAN IN PARIS overcome their slower moments and stand the test of time is the memorable musical numbers. LA LA LAND doesn’t quite have that singular sing-a-long moment but creates a longevity of glee through a consistent piano-filled sound that unites a sense of melancholy with cheerful optimism.  LA LA LAND is a more progressive approach to the genre but is still grounded in familiar roots.  The opening number grabs the audiences attention in an awe-inspiring traffic jam extravaganza that would have been painstakingly cruel in organization and execution. The film continues that energy with song and dance numbers that highlight the two lead characters more intimately.  Naturally, they don’t have the feet or voice of Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, but that’s a bit of the point. Focusing on the magnetic chemistry between Sebastian and Mia, that is only pulled off by the extreme talents of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, LA LA LAND is a hopeful romantic.

With all the hate, death and political division our country and world is going through, LA LA LAND is that perfect dose of escapism that some of us are blessed enough to freely partake in from time to time. One can’t help but to smile from ear to ear in wonderment as the simple act of dancing lifts Sebastian and Mia, metaphorically and literally, to limitless possibilities.


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