As I walk out of the cinema, I can’t help but notice how every person that I pass on my way back to my car, gives me a warm smile. What’s happening? Are they’re laughing, at me. Do I have some cheese on my chin from the overpriced nachos that I just ate? Is my hair more of a mess than it usually is? Did I rub my mother’s lipstick off my chubby cheek after I left the house? I need to get to the bottom of this. I quicken my pace. I hop into the car and look into my mirror. Hair looks okay. No lipstick. No cheese… Hmm, wait a minute, am I smiling? Is that a grin that I see on my face? Where’s my default sour expression of a middle-aged disillusioned man? Oh… That’s right. I just watched “La La Land.”
Damien Chazelle has done it again ladies and gentlemen. First, he caught us off guard with “Whiplash,” now, he’s blowing audiences away with the best damn musical that I’ve seen all year. Not that that says much. Alright, the best musical that I’ve seen in the past ten years. Much better. “La La Land” is not just another superficial spectacle of course, at its core lies a warm and mushy throbbing heart that I know many if not all aspiring artists and lovers alike will be able to empathize with. It is a story of love, dreams and sacrifice. And, honestly, who can’t relate to that?
It Starts With Golden Characters
We begin the film with Mia (Emma Stone) a passionate and struggling actress who’s looking for her big break in the place where dreams come to be fulfilled— or like in most cases, die. Los Angeles. As she wanders between work and auditions, she keeps on running into a dreamy but perturbed Piano player/Jazz aficionado in whimsical ways only possible in Hollywood. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is also coincidentally down and out on his luck, though, all due to his hard-headedness of sticking to the past. In every cute run-in with Mia, Sebastian seems to be more annoyed with her than anything else. While she tries her best to talk to him, Sebastian tries his best to avoid her. But in time, and after a few serendipitous dance numbers, like any sane man would do with a beautiful girl like Emma Stone, our ol’ boy Sebastian begins to fall in love with Mia. And, from that point on, the audience will be emotionally yanked left and right; not too rough though, just enough to make you feel like you’re cruisin’ down the wavy coast in a vintage 1955 Pony with the top down on a warm California day.
It goes without saying that Emma’s and Ryan’s performances are top-notch stuff. Emma delivers a true, innocent and romanticized performance of a girl chasing dreams. With her big and wide puppy-eyes adding more to each expression than most A-list actors can with the entirety of their face. And Ryan, with his subdued and charming character, one can’t help but feel every emotion that runs through his heart just by a simple look, or change of tone in his voice. They both work wonderfully on their own, but when you throw them into a twirling stew of music, dance and colors with a little sprinkle of glitz and glamour, you get the perfect chemistry that a film like this needs to succeed. No forced love interest here, no unnecessary baby-making scenes, and no awkward and stunted lines either. If you want that, go watch the new “Underworld.” The love that the two characters feel towards each other comes off the screen as earned, genuine, and fun. A true Hollywood romance to be remembered.
And to top all of that gooey goodness, now we move onto the icing on the cake. The music. It’s fantastic… Enough said. Really though, I couldn’t stop myself humming along to the very catchy theme of the film every time that it came on. I loved it in every sense. The beautiful cinematography and choreography are just as colorful as the tunes. I won’t try to describe and spoil it for you. I guess that you’re going to have to go and see it. But, I will say that Chazelle knew exactly what he was doing. He did his homework and learned from the classics— something that most directors forget to do.
Obviously, the film wasn’t perfect, but neither is any film. I could write a paragraph pointing out all of the little things that bother a film nerd like myself, but for this incredible piece of work, it’s just not worth it. It’s not very often that you find a film like this in your local Cinemark. I sometimes think that the magic of cinema has been lost in the mire of oversaturated low-budget “film product,” but, maybe once or twice a year, we get a real film that you I know was made with passion and is also appreciated by general audiences, and really, that’s enough to keep me happy for those long stretches of time.