La La Land dazzles with on screen chemistry, classic charm
Complete with dancers in the streets and critical acclaim at every stoplight, 14-time Oscar-nominee La La Land has found a place on the cinematic map.
This musical romantic dramedy follows aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and classical jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in Hollywood. Combining the worlds of Hollywood and Broadway with a bitter taste of reality, Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has succeeded in reviving the seemingly bygone genre of musicals in this fun-loving film.
While musicals had their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s with blockbusters such as The Sound of Music (1965) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), La La Land brings new light to the screen with a score written by Justin Hurwitz and an A-list cast of actors including Gosling, Stone, John Legend (Keith), and Rosemarie DeWitt (Laura).
Living in the heart of Los Angeles, Mia works as an barista outside a film studio by day and auditions for commercials, movies and television shows by night. Despite her daily exposure to stardom serving A-listers coffee, she fails to score the part that will bring her out of the coffeeshop and onto the stage.
On the other side of town, Sebastian plays a piano gig one summer night, disregarding the setlist and instead playing a wistful jazz improvisation (“Mia and Sebastian’s Theme”) that catches Mia’s attention as she wanders into the jazz club. The two unexpectedly meet again and again until they fall in love and Mia moves into Sebastian’s one-bedroom apartment.
When Sebastian accepts a steady keyboarding job with a friend’s band and becomes famous, Mia writes a play that falls flat. Her setback convinces her to move back home, and, with Sebastian on tour, their star-crossed love affair begins to crumble as their ambitions fade, showing the strain Hollywood can place on any relationship.
Now in their third romantic drama, previously the duo starred in Crazy, Stupid Love (2011) and Gangster Squad (2013) together. The two excel in encompassing the whirlwind of emotions in show business. With natural chemistry and passion, they effortlessly weave a tragic love story.
Though the film is produced and directed well, the plot lacks some originality, aside from a small twist at the end. While everyone loves the occasional boy-meets-girl storyline and the tale of a starving actor who faces endless rejection, Chazelle doesn’t stray too far from these templates. That is, until the last third of the movie.
What the script lacks in originality it makes up for tenfold in musicality. Hurwitz adds a modern vibe to La La Land by downplaying the staged, vibrato-filled singing and adding a hint of slow jazz, giving a nod to early-20th century tunes while still engaging modern music.
All in all, La La Land’s whopping 14 Academy Award nominations tie it for the most ever with Titanic (1997) and All About Eve (1950). Nominations include Best Picture, Gosling for Best Actor, Stone for Best Actress, Chazelle for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and many more.
Filled with singing, tap dancing and a tragically beautiful story of love and loss, La La Land will have audiences humming all the way home. While cliche in parts, this masterpiece will be sure to keep viewers safely grounded in reality.