Review: “La La Land” Brings the Musical Back To the Big Screen



Title: La La Land
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Posted January 20, 2017 by

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I’m going to be honest with you right up front: I wanted to find something about this movie I didn’t like. It’s not that I have anything against Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone, I have no ill will towards writer/director Damien Chazelle (10 Cloverfield Lane, Whiplash), it’s not even that I can’t get into musicals (if I’m being honest, they’re a lot of fun). It’s that everyone that has seen this movie has loved it, raved about it, said it’s one of the best pictures of the year, and in the wise words of Fight Club’s narrator, “I felt like destroying something beautiful.” The problem with that plan of attack: “La La Land” is an extremely well crafted movie, wonderfully acted, and the music is catchy as hell. It’s a special film that can take a cynical bastard like myself and show me a good time no matter how hard I fight it, and “La La Land” did exactly that.

What worked for me with this film was Chazelle’s ability to deliver a powerful and captivating story while also working in musical pieces that enhanced the scene or progressed the narrative in a positive direction. With a lot of musicals in the past, the story feels like an excuse to have synchronized dancing and characters randomly bursting into a song, but with “La La Land” both versions of the film (if that’s how I have to refer to them to get my point across) felt complete on their own and complimented one another wonderfully. There was one moment where Mia (Stone) is auditioning for a movie and starts singing a story that I was like, “Eh…let’s hurry this up”, but that’s a small complaint for a movie that has a two hour running time.

I am going to say this just so you don’t think I’m jumping on any kind of bandwagon when it comes to this movie: the first, I’d say half I suppose, of the film feels generic. It’s your typical “boy meets girl, they fall madly in love, everything is perfect and they’re both going to end up happy” storyline. Somewhere around the middle, however, Chazelle subtly starts injecting honesty and brutal reality into this magical world he has created and while our happy-go-lucky characters are dancing in mid air, Chazelle makes the reality around them start to feel familiar and relatable. I mentioned before that I’m a cynical bastard so it should come as no surprise that I started mumbling, “Okay, now that’s realistic” when things began to crumble. I’m not going to tell you how this film ends, because I’m not a horrible person, but I will say that the direction this story heads is both depressing and amazing and that’s what life is like. While it’s not realistic that people would break out into a made up song neither one of them rehearsed yet both know the lyrics to, it is realistic that even when things are perfect, things aren’t so perfect.

Chazelle is not content to just throw a musical at you. This is not some project he decided to take on to prove to people this type of movie still has a place in cinema. This is a well-crafted film that utilizes great acting and exciting filmmaking techniques to transport you into another world: and that’s what the movies are supposed to do. Go to the theater to see Ryan Gosling charm a determined Emma Stone, but go home knowing you just went through an experience you wish you could live in for a long time.




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