First things first. As the title suggests, I absolutely hate musicals. I know hate is a strong word but I never use it lightly. Sure I can appreciate the great musicals and I even sang along to Disney movies as a young lad, but over the last 20 years whenever a character begins to break into song and dance my heart sinks. “Why can’t this character just say what they’re thinking?” “Why is this happening?” “Why am I watching this?” To put it simply “Why?” I always had a lot of questions regarding musicals and their necessity in popular culture. That is, until I saw La La Land. The second directorial effort by the talented filmmaker Damien Chazelle. Coming off the success of 2014’s Whiplash, expectations for his sophomore film were expectedly high. La La Land delivers in every way and is a visually and emotionally a unique experience.
La La Land stars Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress who currently works at a coffee shop on the studio lot. Co-staring with Stone (for the third time) is Ryan Gosling who portrays Sebastian, a jazz pianist who’s inspired by the greats who came before him. Ultimately Sebastian’s dream is to own his own jazz club to keep the rich history of jazz alive, while Mia seeks stardom and fame. After a couple chance encounters, Mia and Sebastian begin a relationship, knowing that their desires completely juxtapose each others. What ensues is a classic romantic comedy steeped with rich vibrant musical numbers that will leave viewers feeling a wide array of emotions, which ultimately consume the heart with joy.
As a person who wants a career in creative endeavors, this movie spoke to me on a level that most will also find solace. It’s funny, beautiful, engaging, thought provoking, yet heartbreaking in many ways. Again, I can’t underestimate my distain for musicals, and as soon as the opening number began I thought “Why did I see this”? I was quickly brought down off my cynical horse and engaged in a somewhat cliched but timeless tale of two people coming together at a time when their lives aren’t YET where they want them to be, but together they both change the course of each others journey in life. La La Land is a film clearly influenced by other musicals, but rather than ripping them off, Chazelle show his appreciation for these influences and brings them together for a whole new audience, much like a Tarantino flick.
The visuals are the major element (or the only element I could notice) in La La Land where you can really see the influences come to fruition. It really doesn’t matter if his influences are transparent, Chazelle is trying to hide them. La La Land is as much a celebration of musicals as it is a love story. I needed to attend this celebration to turn my cynical mindset of musicals forever, and I am forever grateful I actually gave this film a chance, because looking back on 2016, La La Land is one of my favorite films of the year. That’s a statement I never thought I’d say, but the talent involved in this film made it possible for an a**hole like myself to be lifted into the magical dream-filled world La La Land represents. The film shows a story desired by anyone who wants a career in the arts or who has had love creep up in their lives in the most unexpected ways possible.
La La Land is a film to be seen and not talked about. I could go on for hours about the film, but go see it for yourself. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate musicals, La La Land has something for everyone. I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s a beautiful film and shows the career progression of director Damien Chazelle, who’s next film will have even crazier expectations. I for one can’t wait to see what this dude will do next. Oh yeah, Gosling and Stone are absolutely unreliable, and their chemistry is infectious.
La La Land stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, and Rosemarie DeWitt and is now playing in theaters nationwide.
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