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La La Land – Movie Review

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La La Land – Movie Review

Rating: A (Fantastic)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

The musical is one of those genres that when done properly can result in the most uplifting films. The image of brilliantly choreographed dancers and singers can conjure up strong emotions and is the perfect form of escapism. In no other world other than the movie musical do people spontaneously launch into a musical number. Director/writer Damien Chazelle plays with our feelings about filmmaking and musicals in telling the story of two people in love. The story of Mia and Sebastian is not a revolutionary one, but much like Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist from five years ago, La La Land takes a familiar construct and paints it with utter delight and charm.

There is something immediately relatable about Mia’s story with her frequent struggle of attaining her dream career and constant rejection. Emma Stone’s performance conveys this beautifully with all of the heartbreak coming through. Yet that bit of optimism shines, which gives a good idea of the main theme of the film. Even as real life drags us down and forces us to assume nothing can get better, the power of media can pull us out of that rut. Chazelle uses his love for movies and music to showcase this message, one that is absolutely necessary in this day and age.

Stone’s chemistry with Ryan Gosling is superb, two actors at the top of their game displaying an on-screen romance that goes through the necessary ups and downs. Chazelle also employs a bit of magical realism in developing their relationship, a needed force as they continue and attempt to keep the spark alive. One of the more enchanting scenes in La La Land comes courtesy of a visit to the planetarium with Mia and Sebastian soaring up to the clouds. This sequence could have been corny, but Chazelle handles it beautifully. There’s an obvious influence from the likes of Gene Kelly and Jacques Demy through much of La La Land, but this scene most recalls the animated Walt Disney films of yesteryear.

The original songs written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are instantly memorable concoctions certain to be in many viewer’s heads upon exiting the film. The most touching and beautiful is “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, a solo number performed by Emma Stone which the film cleverly builds up to. “City of Stars” serves as Sebastian’s anthem, which the film plays twice as both a solo and a duet. “Someone in the Crowd” is a peppy number sure to bring instant smiles upon its appearance. Justin Hurwitz’s instrumental score also compliments La La Land, with Chazelle giving him plenty of times to shine in dialogue-less scenes. Throughout it all, Linus Sandgren’s colourful cinematography and Mandy Moore’s carefully constructed choreography contribute heavily to the overall success of La La Land.

Calling back upon the musicals of many years ago, Damien Chazelle crafts a touching and charming film that will find many admirers among those who hold a deep respect for the arts and those who make them. The soundtrack album is certain to receive many spins and the songs are instant classics. It wouldn’t be shocking if the trio behind them get many Broadway gigs and movie musical offers in the future. Best of all, La La Land is fitting escapism, the prime reason we go to the movies. It’s a call against cynicism and letting others stop us from fulfilling our dreams and desires, no matter how ludicrous.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison