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Review: La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in Lionsgate's LA LA LAND

With a massive number of people breaking into song and dance in its opening moments, La La Land proves that it knows how to capture the attention of its audience. That’s fine and all, but the meat of any movie is in the second act. What I found here isn’t just that the director has an ear for music and sound, but he once again confirms that he has an ability to deliver a film of great quality as he did with 2014’s Whiplash.

Although quite different from that 2014 release, La La Land centers around music and the people who obsess over it. We focus in on Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz musician looking for his big break. As individuals in Los Angeles, both are finding their goals difficult to achieve in the face of perceived limitations and hard-nosed opposition. However, the determination they share wills them on, brings them together and has them singing and dancing their way down a road which they hope leads to success.

I wasn’t supportive of this with it being a musical and all. In my eyes, the musical/dance numbers we see in films like this almost always take away from the pictures that they’re in and tend to throw things off a bit. In La La Land, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every musical aspect of this movie meshes right with the scenes that they’re in. For someone such as myself, this allows the movie to flow in the correct directions as it should and when it should.

The music never manages to overpower the rest of the movie. Some musicals rely on the music entirely and give you pieces that essentially interrupt the story or scene. Handling it this way doesn’t allow the characters to feel like anything other than musical mouthpieces. Here, the characters are people going through the difficulties of trying to make it in the entertainment industry. You see them, you feel them, you hear them.

At it’s core, what’s seen here is only your typical “boy meets girl” kind of love story. That’s also something that I’m usually not a fan of, but La La Land turns out to be different here as well. Going back to what I stated earlier, the musical numbers assist in preventing it from being just more of what we’ve seen before. On its own, this stuff would have likely bored me, but with the music included the way it is, there’s life being brought to something that’s should have been dead quite a while ago.

The key to all of the success here is the directing of Damien Chazelle. The actors are fine, but the directing is the reason why La La Land is more than the typical musical. I don’t know how much range he’ll have in his future in terms of projects and overall quality, but he’s proven himself to be legit at what he does so far. And with great camera work, you obviously have to give credit to Linus Sandgren as the cinematographer as well. Together, these two combined to form a great duo here.

I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but La La Land is one of the better movies of 2016. Even if you’re like me, there’s a legitimate chance that you’ll enjoy what you get to see here. Taking a simple premise and turning it into something that at least feels fresh is a commendable feat for Damien Chazelle and his team. The skill and creativity they illustrate is why I expect them to be on the receiving end of well earned adulation for a while.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Damien Chazelle

Ryan Gosling
Emma Stone
John Legend
JK Simmons
Rosemarie DeWitt
Finn Wittrock
Callie Hernandez
Sonoya Mizuno
Jessica Rothe
Tom Everett Scott
Josh Pence

Film Length: 128 minutes

Release Dates:
December 9, 2016 (Limited)
December 16, 2016 (Wide)

Distributor: Lionsgate

  • Score - 7.5/10
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