Review - 'La La Land'
When I walked out of La La Land I experienced maybe a 10-minute stretch of semi-euphoria where I felt like I was more in tune with the music around me. Granted, I was in a mall and there's constant sources of music, but this time I was actually listening and not because I chose to, but because the film naturally geared me towards paying more attention. For this reason, and many more, La La Land is an absolute delight.
The film centers around Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) and Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), two down-on-their-luck people that both have passion and talent, but are struggling to find successful outlets for it. When their paths inevitably intertwine they fall for each other and are then forced to choose between staying together or pursuing their life-long dreams.
This film's biggest weakness, as you may already be able to tell, is its story. This is a fairly conventional, by-the-numbers romantic dramedy that distracts you with its well-written dialogue, creative dance numbers, unique sense of style and charming actors. Save for the ending, I basically knew where this film was going for most of the duration. That said, all is forgiven because what Director Damien Chazelle does with that final five minutes or so is absolutely awe-inspiring. This movie has one of the best endings I've seen all year and if you have a heart, it will undoubtedly make you feel.
In addition to making me feel in a way that I haven't ever before upon walking out of a film; La La Land's "distractions" as I called them so flippantly are absolutely superb and would be worth the price of admission alone. Chazelle directs the hell out of the musical numbers in the film; which come about organically and never feel out-of-left-field like they do in so many other musicals. While the film is mostly grounded, the dance sequences play out on an entirely different field and nothing is out of the realm of possibility. There's a great sequence that takes place in the Griffith Observatory where Sebastian and Mia decide that gravity doesn't exist anymore and they immediately lift up and dance among the stars. The choreography during these segments is excellent and while I wish I could have understood what was being sung more easily, I was still able to understand the plot developments through the actors' actions.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are clearly not natural-born singers, but they aren't bad here either. Stone is clearly the more impressive vocalist while Ryan Gosling is the better physical performer; playing the piano and even tap dancing. Together, as always, their chemistry is infectious and their banter is hilarious and heart-felt. There really aren't too many other actors worth mentioning here save for John Legend, who plays an old friend named Kieth that attempts to lure Sebastian into his modernist Jazz band and J.K. Simmons who stops in for a borderline cameo appearance as a restaurant owner and an employer of Sebastians.
In addition to everything else; the cinematography in La La Land is gorgeous. There are very few movies that look this consistently beautiful from frame to frame. The film manages to look both classically old and modern at the same time and the images on the screen do a great job of evoking both of these sensibilities. Above all I admired the use of color and the dream-like quality of the cinematography that accompanied the story.
La La Land is a beautiful and contagiously likable musical that envelops you in its dream-like world and then pulls the rug out from under you with one of the most creative and heart-wrenching endings I've seen all year. As a viewer that doesn't typically gravitate towards musicals; this was satisfying on so many levels and is easily one of my favorite movies of the year.