After dominating the Golden Globes the public at large finally gets a chance to see what all the buzz is about with the wide release of the musical romance flick “La La Land”. On the outside the film may look unassuming, like any other relatively simple and colorful musical picture, but as much as some people may want to deny it “La La Land” is so much more. The film lives up to the hype in every way with an engaging story, magnificent writing, and memorable music that will make you not only believe in love and happiness in the face of adversity, but also restores faith in classical film styles and treads on creative and visual ground long thought outdated in a industry that certainly could use a bit of nostalgia.
Many of my fellow reviewers have called “La La Land” “touching, “genuine”, and “a masterpiece” and it’s hard, near impossible even to disagree with them about this gem. Directed and written by the visionary filmmaker behind “Whiplash” Damien Chazelle, who also happens to have writing credits on one of my favorite sci-fi films of 2016, “10 Cloverfield Lane”, “La La Land” is brought to life by an amazing cast of characters with the central story involving the seemingly mismatched dreamers Sebastian and Mia (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) who unite in their common struggle for success in Hollywood while also finding happiness and comfort in each other in a cutthroat land of dreams.
While Gosling’s Sebastian is a jazz traditionalist gifted with the piano, Stone’s Mia as an aspiring and struggling actress. As Sebastian struggles to find success in creating his own jazz club and spreading his love for the music, Mia fails to grab gig after gig through numerous tryouts, leading both to struggle with the possibility that their dreams are nothing but just that, hopeless dreams. The two cross paths several times, sparking a romance that even they acknowledge is a mismatch, but their understanding of the struggles of dreams and success bring them closer together until eventually they become the rocks that hold each other together and keep themselves grounded in a world so seemingly against them at every turn.
With that said the plot sounds like any other romance story, but “La La Land” bucks the clichés of its “mismatched lovers” setup and turns that same cliché on its head. When reality sets in, Sebastian and Mia’s individual drives to accomplish their own dreams force them to make compromises and sacrifices that begin to tear the two apart. Unlike other romance films however, “La La Land” does not rely on hope and second chances to tug at the heartstrings. By the end of the film we see a pair of lovers who find peace in each other, but come to realize that life is more than just love. Sometimes conquering the world and following your heart goes beyond holding hands. Even in the face of this adversity the couple shows every viewer that love and success are always possible, but that these joys of life may clash at times and force you to make decisions that will define your happiness, for better or worse. To that end “La La Land” embraces a realistic and grounded approach to the “romance in the face of adversity” trope and presents us with legitimate decisions, roadblocks, and struggles of the real world and the impact real world decisions have on love and life.
Of course the cornerstone of this whole film is the music which is timeless in its own right. Incorporating modern messages and lyrical styles with more traditional musical arrangements, it’s safe to say “La La Land” may just be the “Singing in the Rain” for the new generation, a film it clearly took much inspiration from and embraced magnificently. “La La Land” doesn’t try to be anything more than it has to be and through magnificent songwriting and storytelling the music and dialogue blend together to tell a tale so often brought to the big screen but in a way that’s fresh, exciting, and, at times, highly emotional and even frustratingly honest.
Complimented by a talented supporting cast, including John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, and more, “La La Land” will make you believe in love and dreams and has the potential do draw a tear and a smile from anyone willing to give it a chance and actually enjoy and embrace the message and story it has to share. As close to perfection as any movie can be, “La La Land” is colorful, inspiring, and perfectly directed and acted. It’s not just one of the greatest movies of the last year, but may just be one of the greatest stories put to film in the last decade.