A modern day musical, an all-star cast of two, and fourteen Oscar nominations; Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) gives us all this and more as he directs his third film with the amazing chemistry between frontrunners Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and enough memorable, original, and colorful musical pieces to spice up a playlist of either modern-day or old-school jazz. Whiplash (2014) proved that Chazelle can deliver with insane cinematography and score held together by two characters engulfed in aspirations (Simmons and Teller), and La La Land is another example of how to continue to give the pursuit of dreams a proper treatment. The difference between the two, is that the dreams of the newer feature are unbalanced while the former holds a single dream where both characters can climb together. The latest feature is not about rivalry between the two leads, but an example of where not all dreams involve a perfectly happy ending for everyone.
Young actress/waitress in Hollywood Mia (Stone) meets old-school Jazz musician Sebastian (Gosling) to form a romance made by song and dance numbers that embody the pursuit of fame and artistic desires. Each have to make their own separate sacrifices to achieve their possible goals whether it is playing music that contradicts their style or going beyond their reaches to discover new dreams. It is a heavily glamorized look at the worlds of acting and music, but this is encouraged in order to makes the audience soak in the atmosphere that the protagonists see and aspire to. The film is not made to be realistic, but its characters and heart are what drives the film from its many downs to its many ups.
In the planning, La La Land was seen as an extremely ambitious film for a director who made only two films prior to, especially since it is a musical. It required countless hours of planning to choreograph the dance sequences and figure out the long-take that starts off the feature. Before this, Gosling never even played the piano, and he learned to play every bar as shown on film, just as John Legend had to do with the guitar. This was Emma’s second singing role, her first being on Broadway. The amount of work to make this film was pure insanity, as it was for the crew to record the scenes in the time that was available (two months). Both leads are phenomenal and rightfully nominated for their respective roles, both for the time they put into learning their roles and the effort they put into singing and dancing in order to showcase their character’s obsessions. It was a joy to see Gosling and Stone together again (for their third time) and bring to life stories that they actually might have experienced (Stone especially).
In life, we create dreams in order to give meaning to the actions we make, because each action could bring us ever closer to the life we have always sought. The biggest question of the film would be whether the couple’s relationship was either a push towards or away from those pursuits. For delivering a film that gives life to a dying original live-action musical genre (the last probably being Enchanted (2007)), having a realistic tale in a beautifully filmed world, and giving two already well-known leads a chance to go literally all-out (at least one of them will win at the Oscars), La La Land deserves a 10 out of 10. Look forward to the work that Chazelle has to offer, because he understands the art of building dreams and showing the pain and heart needed to achieve them. I urge you to give these types of films a chance, as our current market of movies tends to discourage directors from making these hopeful and inspiring films. We need these types of dreamers to remember that not every day can be like a trip to la-la land, but it can be if you truly believe and strive for it. Don’t forget where we all at one point started: dreaming.
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