Monday, December 19, 2016

Movie Review #538: "La La Land" (2016)

Movie"La La Land"
Director: Damien Chazelle
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
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An aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) find love and chase their dreams in the city of Los Angeles. 

"La La Land" is written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who burst onto the directorial scene in 2014 with his award winning film "Whiplash," one of our favorite films from that year. It stars Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress who spends her time going to crappy auditions for crappy parts and working as a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros studio lot. Joining her is Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a struggling jazz musician who dreams of one day opening his own club in the city. He is a talented musician, but his traditional views on jazz music make him difficult to work with. Mia and Sebastian don't have the greatest start to their relationship, but after running into one another at a party, they strike up a friendship, begin dating, and eventually, after many months, their relationship endures hardships along the road to reaching their dreams.

We have been looking forward to "La La Land" for many, many months, and it certainly did not disappoint us in the slightest. This film features both a love letter to and a scathing review of the city of Los Angeles. It is also an ode to all of the people out there who have the courage, or foolishness, to chase their dreams. It is a modern tale of love wrapped in an homage to old Hollywood films and studio musicals, and it is damn near perfect. The film bubbles and bursts with vivid colors and stunning imagery as it captures a nostalgic look in a modern era. There may very well be undiscovered colors created here, that's how spectacular of a color palette Chazelle is working with from start, with a 'presented in Cinemascope' marquee, to finish, with a look at dream versus reality. It is an utterly splendid experience to look at as a member of the audience. It's not all sunsets, flashy dresses and cool cars. Rather, it's a vast display of proficient technical prowess as the playing of light and shadows, sounds and mood, and various camera shots come into play to make this a standout picture from scene to scene. "La La Land" is not only beautiful, but extremely well made and delicately captivating due to the attention to detail and effort put into each and every frame. The tunes also aid in its brilliance. Some are simple songs, but there are a wide range of them. Several numbers are tender and intimate, others are toe-tappingly fun and supremely catchy, and there are even a few that could elicit a laugh.

Knowing that Ryan Gosling really learned to play the piano and that he and Emma Stone are singing all of the music only makes it that much more special and personal. Speaking of Gosling and Stone, they offer two magnificent performances here. Stone is absolutely brilliant as Mia, who goes from audition to audition chasing her dream of being an actress, and Gosling is excellent as Sebastian, who has to succumb to pressures of playing modern music, even as a jazz purist. Together, they share a truly palpable, realistic, smoldering, spectacular chemistry. Both actors are absolutely charming, as is the film as a whole.

Words cannot express how much I truly loved "La La Land," and not just because of the chemistry between its actors, the fantastic music, and its technical achievements. This is what we want to experience when we go to the movies, to be immersed in a story, to be captivated by the screen from start to finish, and to feel something when we leave the theater. We want to watch movies that inspire us, that make us believe, that make us smile, or cry, or laugh, or be happy, that nudge us to take a chance. Though BigJ was a little less moved by the film, we both agree "La La Land" is a truly gorgeous piece of cinema with beautiful costumes, vibrant sets and colors, brilliant music, dynamic camerawork and flawless cinematography. You are doing yourself a disservice if you do not see this stunning movie.


My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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