LA LA LAND La La Lavishes with joy and warmth. This is a movie I want to live in. It's a perfect homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood and pays deep admiration of the musicals during that era.
After a failed audition, Mia (the super gifted Emma Stone) walks passed a mural of Hollywood legends -- Chaplin, Monroe -- people who don't need to be introduced by their full name, people actors want to be, people she wants to be but can't nail the right audition. As she drifts along the avenue, she hears the soothing sounds of a piano and walks into the bar. The pianist is the dreamy Sebastian (played by the dreamy Ryan Gosling). He lives and breathes jazz, a dying breed of music.
These two characters keep having chance encounters — one very humorous and very L.A. — and finally end up as a couple, *the* couple with whimsical love so powerful; it’s the kind people dream of having. These two float, and sing and dance their happiness together, despite their ongoing struggles.
As Sebastian, Gosling carries suave and pizazz of Gene Kelley, and the energetic legs and feet of Fred Astaire, while Emma Stone captures a fierce hustle and bounce delivery of Audrey Hepburn, with a sweet tone of Judy Garland.
LA LA LAND is a musical and one of the most lively and enjoyable of its genre. It’s not your conventional musical — watch Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” music video for a taste of this magical gem. This movie is beautiful in so many ways. Writer-director Damien Chazelle (WHIPLASH) shows what he knows: celebrating music in an effortless slick style.
From memory, a few films pulse throughout LA LA LAND, including Woody Allen’s ANNIE HALL, revered musicals from the Golden Age such as George Sydney’s SHOW BOAT, GIGI, A STAR IS BORN, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, Chazelle’s first feature WHIPLASH — about strict determination — and the dance numbers and tunes are as remarkable and catchy as 2011’s THE MUPPETS. You’ll be singing long after leaving the theater.
Chazelle banged on the scene in 2014 with his hard-hitting debut feature film about being the best and nothing less, WHIPLASH, which won three Oscars: Best Supporting Role (J.K. Simmons, in a powerful and monstrous performance), Film Editing, and Sound Mixing. I saw this at its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It was the opening night film, nobody heard much of it, and after, I wished the other films screening good luck! because we had all just seen the best of the festival.
And he kept that rhythm going.
For better or worse, LA LA LAND is going to be Chazelle’s best film. From the song and dance numbers to his tongue-in-cheek mockery and glamorizations of the conventions of living in L.A.
So what is LA LA LAND really about? Decorating and disfiguring surviving in L.A.? Or, the truth and consequences of following your dream? I’m not too sure, but I do know LA LA LAND is a well-planned, well-executed story of love, the reality of disappointment, and what happens when we stop worrying and learn to accept life and its strange designs. LA LA LAND is the backdrop of movies and why we see them. It’s magical.