Title: La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
La La Land is the brand new Damien Chazelle movie which stars two of Hollywood’s most beloved actors working today Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. All year this has been a film I’ve highly anticipated, not necessarily because it’s a musical (I’m actually not a big fan of musicals), but because of the director and the two lead actors. Damien Chazelle’s last film was Whiplash, which I consider to be a masterpiece of well-crafted cinema mixing non-top thrills in a small environment. I was really blown away with Chazelle was able to do on such a low-budget, so it made me really excited to see what he could do with a bigger budget. All I can say is he might have outdone himself and created another masterpiece that actually might be better than Whiplash.
La La Land seems like it is Chazelle’s passion project. A film he has been dreaming of making for a long time. I have watched a lot of interviews with the director promoting the film, and he explained how important this film was to him. He is a huge fan of musicals, his favorite film being The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and he is also a fan of the golden age of movies in the 40s and 50s. There are a lot of references to films in that era in the movie as a matter of fact. Films like Rebel Without a Cause and Casablanca . If I had to make an analogy of what La La Land is like than I would say it is a mixture of Casablanca and Singing in the Rain with a modern-day feel. This film is a perfect mixture of what made the Hollywood films of the 40s and 50s so good, but still making it feel modern. He is able to combine both so well, so really anyone of any age can enjoy this movie. It is not like The Artist where it feels too much like a given era. Chazelle is also a big fan of jazz music. He has deep passion for jazz music and film, and both are combined so well. You have the two lead characters who are both passionate about jazz music and classic film. Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is a massive jazz music fan and raves on how great the classical jazz music is and how it’s a dying industry. And then there’s Mia, played by Emma Stone, who is an aspiring actress who loves classical film. She also believes that the movie industry is dying. So, to sum it all up, La La Land is a celebration of classical jazz, film, and Los Angeles. This is easily one of the best LA movies I have ever seen which leads me to my next point.
The setting of this film is fantastic. There are very few films that have embraced how great Los Angeles is better than this movie. But at the same time it kind of pokes holes at what is wrong with LA as well. With that being said, Chazelle was able to create a world that I wanted to be in. His version of LA is so wonderful and I really felt immersed while watching this film. I wanted to jump into the screen and be in this fictional version of LA that Chazelle has created which is something I really respected and admired about this film. La La Land is colorful, joyful, emotional, and brings out the magic that movies can create. This film can make you laugh, cry, and jump for joy. This is because of the brilliant directing, wonderful screenplay, catchy music, and the perfect performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
This is the third film that both Gosling and Stone have been in together. The first being an underrated gem in Crazy, Stupid, Love. The second, Gangster Squad, being sort of a misfire. But nevertheless, both Gosling and Stone were great in each one of those films. I can safely say that this is the best movie they have been in together, and very well may be the best performances they have ever given in their entire careers. I feel more comfortable saying that about Stone, who even though has had a very impressive career so far, really outdoes her self in this movie and brings out more emotion and charm than she’s ever done. With Gosling, he has had some pretty great performances from films like Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, and Drive, but he has never been given more room to show off his talent than in this film. One thing that I loved about this film was how equally great Gosling and Stone were in this film. Not one actor outshines the other one. They are able to both give equally fantastic performances and bounce off each other so well. Their chemistry is so fantastic, and I would love to see 10 more films with these two actors starring together. Even though they are both excellent, I would say their acting styles are slightly different. Even though they both sing and dance (Gosling also plays piano), Stone gives a more emotional performance and Gosling is more calm and relaxed. Emma Stone probably has more “Oscar moments”, but Gosling is so cool composed and gives the more natural performance. Chazelle really embodies what is great about both Gosling and Stone so well, and in return give them both career defining performances.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be right to not talk about the music in this film. It is a musical after all. What I can say is even though there have probably been musicals with more memorable music like The Wizard of Oz and Singing in the Rain, the music in La La Land is still fantastic. There are big musical numbers, smaller, more intimate love songs, and plenty of fantastic jazz music that any fan of jazz can enjoy. Especially the older type of jazz like Miles Davis for example. There are a handful of memorable musical numbers in this movie, but Chazelle doesn’t over-do the movie with the music. He is able to still make the movie feel real even though it is a musical. There are plenty of great scenes that don’t have a musical number which is something that is really impressive about this movie. I really liked how each musical number was earned and not forced in this movie. I never had a moment of “Ugh, now they’re gonna sing.” Gosling and Stone both could sing and dance really well, and the writing and choreography for the music was top-notch. Even though I have only seen this movie once, I can safely say that it will probably be considered one of the best Hollywood musicals of all time down the road. It is that good!
Overall, La La Land is a brilliant new film from a marvelous, young talented filmmaker in Damien Chazelle. He is able to combine what is great about classic music and film in a modern-day setting that anyone of any age can enjoy. After watching this movie, I felt very inspired and uplifted which is what the great movies tend to do. It really has that sense of movie magic that the great classic films like Casablanca had, which is very rare nowadays. Not only does it have that classic-movie feel, it still feels modern. Also the directing, acting, editing, and musical are all phenomenal. I expect this movie to be nominated for a numerous amount of Oscars, probably more so than any other film. It truly is a film that the Academy will drool all over. I certainly drooled all over it, and it is probably my favorite movie of the year. Anyone that enjoys classic cinema, jazz music, musicals, or the two lead actors will probably love this movie. I’m excited to see it again, and to see what Damien Chazelle can do next. My grade for this film is: