Sunday, January 8, 2017

La La Land

Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling (really that's all); cameos by JK Simmons and Finn Wittrock
Director: Damien Chazelle

Running Time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Rating: PG -13

La La Land is a beautiful movie. It's refreshing, and everyone in Hollywood will relate to it as "their story". I certainly did, after having spent a few months in La La Land after college. I saw myself in protagonist Mia, and was reminded how cutthroat yet magical a city it is. Emma Stone plays our heroine, and does a fabulous job. I think she out-acted her frequent screen partner Ryan Gosling, who plays struggling jazz pianist Sebastian. Their story is told with beautiful visuals, fantastical montages and a soundtrack that includes a whimsical tap dance. If you didn't spend a summer in LA or don't love art house films/musical theatre, this movie is not for you. Otherwise, it's a (mostly) feel-good film that's a welcomed change of pace.

Mia and Sebastian are two of the millions of dreamers that comprise LA. If you're not in the biz, you're trying to be. Maybe you're like Mia, a barista between your auditions, who is in fact a very good actress, if it weren't for ADD casting directors and having the wrong body type (or whatever it is this week). Or perhaps you're an out-of-work jazz musician like Sebastian who has to adapt his style to a new generation of electronic music-lovers or play Christmas carols instead of Thelonious Monk to get your paycheck. This film shows the constant ups and downs and struggles in the industry. If it's your dream, you have no choice but to go after it.

There are a few recognizable faces (JK Simmons, the gorgeous Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, and a somewhat oddly placed John Legend) but this is really Stone and Gosling's show. I could see Stone winning some awards for this, but not necessarily Gosling. He felt more like her supporting actor, honestly. I found myself entranced by the visuals and their so seemingly real-life characters, though a montage at the end could have saved us a few minutes. It was just a hair too long.

Did I la la love La La Land? I had a feeling it could possibly replace Moulin Rouge! as my favorite film, but it did not. I really la la liked it, but I'm not dying to see it again just yet. Hollywood will reward this film for its originality, strong acting and overall production quality. Go see this movie, but be prepared for a very different style of film than what you may be used to, for better or for worse.

*Blogger's extra note: if you haven't seen Chazelle's Whiplash or GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Moulin Rouge!, I can't recommend them enough.

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