Musicals are hit and miss for me, but a well done movie musical can be glorious. La La Land certainly fits that bill.
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling jazz pianist who is trying to live out his dream of owning and running a jazz club. Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress who is working at a coffee shop to pay the bills while trying to audition for that big break in Hollywood. These two characters’ stories intersect and we have a great, old-time love story with music.
It is not just music where the characters burst into songs (although there are examples of that as well), but the score and background music really is amazing in this film. The dance numbers are spectacular and the story is in perfect tune.
Others have said this, but it is an apt statement so I will say it as well. La La Land is like a love letter to the old time musicals of the 1930s and 1940s. You could almost imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of La La Land instead of Gosling and Stone.
Emma Stone is revolutionary here. This is here best performance ever, and while Ryan Gosling is awesome too, Stone stands out so much with the emotion of the story and the doubt that creeps into her mind that she is definitely the highlight of this film for me.
The film’s ending is extraordinary to me. I do not want to spoil it, but I love how they took this in a different, unexpected direction, and it really brought out the emotional feels.
The film is set in present day, but there is a feel of an old time film. If you had told me that the film was set in the 40s, I wouldn’t have any issues believing you. That tone is definitely a choice by director Damien Chazelle. Chazelle also directed Whiplash and used music in a remarkably original way there as well. Not only is the music grade A, but the film is beautifully shot. Scene after scene Chazelle provided a visual masterpiece. Even something so simple as Gosling dancing with an older black woman on a bridge was just jaw dropping in beauty.
The story is exceptional. There is not just the love story here, but it is a tale of two people who want to follow their dreams, but have to come back to reality. That struggle to not give up on your heart’s desire is at the center of La La Land, and might actually get more service than the love story itself.
It is a lot of fun and full of great music. The dance routines are mesmerizing. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone deserve Oscar nominations for their performances and La La Land should be considered on the best musicals we have had in many years.