Director Damien Chazelle has once again knocked it out of the park with this year’s La La Land; following his critically acclaimed film, Whiplash, in 2014. Chazelle’s preference in creating films with musical elements is seen again in La La Land; a modern day musical telling the romantic story of aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz enthusiast/pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling).
As both director and screenplay writer, Chazelle deserves all the praise in the world for what he’s done with La La Land because of the clear direction and vision he had with the film. The film consists of a number of long takes to nail the feel of a musical as well as authenticate the experience of watching its musical numbers. Mia and Sebastian are two characters you end up deeply caring for and rooting for to succeed. Their relationship is so believable that it gets the audience emotionally invested, all thanks to the powerful performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Stone and Gosling are the perfect on-screen couple as Mia and Sebastian, with their chemistry being second to none. While neither had any prior musical experience, Stone and Gosling mastered all parts of the film in which they had to sing and dance. Gosling started with zero piano experience and was the subject of worry from Chazelle, but after months of piano lessons, we got what we see on screen; beautifully crafted piano playing with no sign of movie magic or hand doubles to edit Gosling’s astounding performance. While Gosling gives a strong performance, Stone is the one who absolutely owned her role as her performance in La La Land is perfect. Her character, Mia, is the one you feel most absorbed in because Stone is able to bring her character to life; living and breathing as the aspiring actress in Hollywood. One can’t help, but wish for the couple to succeed in the pursuit of their dreams as well as hope their love triumphs over all other obstacles.
La La Land deserves all the critical acclaim for its musical score and musical numbers from Justin Hurwitz. While its opening number “Another Day of Sun” is grand and fantastic, La La Land’s smaller and more personal numbers are the real spotlight, such as “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” and “City of Stars,” performed by Stone and Gosling respectively. Overall, the soundtrack is an absolute joy to listen to and had me listening to it as soon as I finished watching.
The only minor gripe I had with the film was the use of Sebastian’s high school classmate Keith (John Legend). While I understand his role in the plot, it never felt like his involvement with Sebastian and Mia ever came full circle.
As others have stated, La La Land is a love letter of sorts or an ode to L.A., but at its core is a story about dreams, passion, and the drive to succeed. In old Hollywood movies, there would usually be a happy ending where all loose ends are tied up in a nice bow. La La Land, however, doesn’t try to portray this fairy tale and often times pokes fun at the very concept of a fairy tale story. This film contains the perfect marriage between going after your dreams and the reality of sacrifice for a fulfilled life. In a city of dreams, not all of them come true no matter what you wish for. I absolutely La La loved this film and give La La Land a personal rating of 4.75 out of 5 stars.