La La Land

Posted: December 29, 2016 in Movie Reviews

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In this modern age of mega blockbusters and sequels and spinoffs, many film studios and directors have lost sight of what it means to create a film. Oh, they know how to make a film—-in some ways, far more than the classic film-makers of old—-but they’ve forgotten what it means to craft a film; to imbue it with class and charm. While this reviewer enjoys the big CGI spectacles and high-octane thrillers just as much as any warm-blooded American, I find immense satisfaction in indulging in the films from the golden age of Hollywood; where a good story and a sincere desire to uplift was worth more than any immense box office revenue. Today, it seems that anything is made if it has even a chance of attracting piles of dough. But every once in a while, a film comes along that reminds us just how special and magical something like going the movies can truly be.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

Aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone—–The Help, Birdman) dreams of making it big in Hollywood, but is consistently turned down at every audition. Meanwhile, struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling—–Drive, The Big Short) is coping with a changing world where jazz music is no longer as beloved as it used to be. As the two are entwined (initially by less than romantic means), each one learns to joy in the other’s passions and encourage each other to pursue their natural talents. But as time passes with little progress in their endeavors, their love is tested as they must make professional sacrifices that press on their deep desires to see each other succeed.

Also starring: J.K. Simmons and John Legend  

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The theme of succeeding with your goals is about as universal as the theme of true romance. We all have passions that drive us in our day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to pursue your dreams when you’re in the arts. La La Land emphasizes the rigmaroles of dreaming and succeeding just as much as it places romance in a sublime light.

La La Land utilizes that old-fashioned charm that embodied the films that it strives to pay homage to. Musical numbers and dance routines complement the film in truly mesmerizing ways, being in the vein of such musical classics like Singin’ In The Rain (and even a subtle and tender nod to Casablanca). While any modern musical that isn’t a Disney film is an enormous risk, this film pulls it all off with aplomb. Scenes that take place within a single take—-where the camera sweeps back and forth over performers—-is executed with accuracy. Song and dance numbers are complimented by beautiful set pieces. And the film perfectly captures the look and tone of Hollywood productions of old.

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While many actors are used throughout the film, none ever stay on screen for more than a few minutes. Instead, the film focuses on Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, allowing their phenomenal acting skills to shine through. The two have great chemistry together and feed off of each other’s charisma and whimsy. As you follow their journey together through more glamorous parts of Los Angeles, you feel truly connected to these characters and care deeply for their story. By film’s end, a genuine fondness has been so expertly established between audience and cast.

In a nutshell:

You don’t see films made like this any more. It’s an unfortunate reality, but nonetheless makes this film that much more special and unique. Throughout the film, you’re held captive by exhilarating music (much in the form of classic jazz) accompanied with soft, absorbing tunes that perfectly reflect the film’s tone. And all of it is enhanced by vibrant dance routines with equally gorgeous cinematography. But all of the effort to dutifully capture the golden age of Hollywood is made worthwhile by a seemingly-clichéd story that culminates with a bitter-sweet ending that’s anything but clichéd. For the film aficionado, La La Land is a wholly fresh experience. For the fan of musicals, it’s a symphony of sights and sounds. But for anybody, it’s a completely euphoric experience. Can you say “Oscar nominations”?

 

9 stars

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