La La Land, A
Rated PG-13, 128 minutes
The delightful, magical new musical romantic dramedy is a creative masterpiece from "Whiplash's' Damien Chazelle and is one of the year's best, most touching films. Wholly original and superbly acted, it's a touching tribute to those who pursue their passions and dreams.
In the heart of Los Angeles, aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions while dedicated jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) plays in dingy bars in order to scrape by. The two meet and fall in love, but, as success mounts, the dreams they worked so hard to maintain threaten to tear them apart.
Directed and written by Chazelle, "La La Land" is an ingratiating, colorful romp through Los Angeles, that's part romance, part musical along with many homages to different films. Chazelle, who's a musician himself in addition to being a filmmaker, again traverses the musical landscape like he did in his award-winning "Whiplash," though much different here in tone and scope. This time, the blood, sweat and tears come from doing what you love, even when it comes with sacrifices.
Stone and Gosling give it their all and it shows in their excellent, fine-tuned turns that should garner them plenty of awards attention this season. Stone in particular is superb, showing a depth and ability with the musical performances (especially in the final act), while Gosling is also strong as the guy who must choose between the girl he loves or the music he loves.
The bright, luscious cinematography brings to light the color of the romance and the music, and the music from Chazelle's longtime friend Justin Hurwitz adds nice texture to the movie. The movie's opening number, "Another Day of Sun," manages to pay homage to diverse musicals such as "Rent" and "The Wizard of Oz," while purists will spot tributes to many, many other movies, such as "Singin' in the Rain" and "An American in Paris."
As great as "La La Land" is, it could be a tough sell, and some audiences have a tough time relating to such an artsy film such as this, though it's helped movies like "Birdman" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." In the right frame of mind, "La La Land" could really resonate, but if you're not the creative type, it could easily push you into a career into accounting, not that there's anything wrong with that.
The dashing, yet bittersweet ending is a fitting coda for "La La Land," whether you're writing, dancing, singing or crunching numbers. Yes, it's a little on the arty side, but "La La Land" is a touching, magical, often magnificent film, and one you should check out for yourself. Expect it to take home many accolades, and is an early shoo-in for the Oscar for Best Picture.