Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"La La Land" Is Pure And Enchanting Movie Magic


Fresh off of directing the Oscar-winning film Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle gives us La La Land which is a film that will enchant you in numerous ways. Whether it'd be its tribute to Old Hollywood, its sparkling chemistry between the two leading stars, or the musical numbers that may have your bursting into dance, La La Land is sure to work its magic on you before and after the credits roll.

Set in modern day Los Angeles, La La Land follows both an aspiring actress named Mia played by Emma Stone and a jazz musician named Sebastian played by Ryan Gosling who are looking to make it big in Tinseltown. After running into each other a few times by chance, they begin to fall in love and slowly realize how optimistic yet turbulent the road to chasing your dreams can be.

One reason the film works so amazingly well is because of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. On their third on screen pairing after Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, both actors prove that they have charisma that is made for the big screen and they have such intoxicating chemistry that I would watch these two in maybe 90 more movies just to see them be charming. As great as Gosling is, though, Emma Stone is the film's beating heart. Stone gets to a play a role that plays to her best skills: She gets to be witty, hilarious, and musical. Yet there are more dimensions underneath all that charm. She's hopeful about making it big yet Stone lets us see the anxiety that her hopes and aspirations will start to crumble. Gosling's character is also pretty three-dimensional because of how he is a traditionalist devoted to jazz which is said to be a dying musical genre yet he tries to make it big in a more modernized musical world.

Along with Gosling and Stone's chemistry, the cinematography by Linus Sundgren helped my eyes become glued to the screen. Whether he uses long tracking shots during some of the musical numbers or evokes green lighting like in a dinner scene that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Sundgren always uses his lens to keep the audience entranced. The film was also shot using the CinemaScope lens that was prominent in the 50's and that helps maintain the film's ode to old school Hollywood.

Since this is a musical, a mention has to go to the songs that are done expertly by Justin Hurwitz. Interestingly enough, there weren't as many musical numbers as I thought there would be. But each one plays an integral part to the storyline. "City Of Stars" is sung in different melodies and lyrics but it is demonstrated as a symbol for how the relationship between Mia and Sebastian grows as the song has more and more lyrics and also how the both of them keep "reaching for the stars."

The song "Someone In The Crowd" talks about how there is someone to guide you when moments start to get tough and is sung before Mia and Sebastian cross paths. Also, "Audition" which will likely be Emma Stone's Oscar clip serves as a culmination for Mia's entire journey. The score, also by Justin Hurwitz, is beautifully done and I loved when it played over the wordless montages and sequences of Mia and Sebastian falling in love because it helped capture the mood of their romance.

While the story involving people trying to make it big may be rather simple, I definitely didn't mind. Mainly because La La Land was an experience that not only enthralled me from beginning to end but is one that I didn't want to end. It made me laugh, cry, hum along to its music, and by the time credits rolled, left me smiling. La La Land is a perfect example of why we go to the movies and is in my opinion, the best musical to come out in years.

Grade: A+