For fans of classic Hollywood, attendance is a requirement.
Filmmaker Damien Chazelle has outdone his debut feature ‘Whiplash’, and that’s no small feat. 2016’s musical drama ‘La La Land‘ enchants like only the Hollywood films of old could. If you’re going to take inspiration, shoot the stars.
The splashy opening LA traffic jam dance number tells you that this isn’t going to be some little, indie feature. I know what your thinking, musical? That means corny. Right?
In spite of the inclusion of all those wonderful Hollywood tropes lifted from the likes of Astaire/Rodgers and Rogers/Hammerstein the balance built between musical whimsy and romantic drama is about right. The corny is only an added bonus.
Mia’s (Emma Stone) dream of Hollywood stardom is beginning to lose its sheen as disappoints compound. And Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is not faring much better as a Jazz musician forced to play Christmas carols at a local restaurant.
Over the span of a few months these two keep running into each other. Is it fate? Their budding romance is a whirlwind brimming of hope. Stone and Gosling magicfy (it’s a word?!) the screen together. Inhabiting that rare mix of everyday and glamour that lets us believe anything is indeed possible in “La La Land”.
The often haunting musical numbers evolve as these characters come down from fantasy and reality starts breaking through illusions. Although neither Stone nor Gosling will win awards on singing abilities alone, the intensity of their smoldering choreography and the passion evoked with breaking voices tell more than simple dialog ever could.
And in perfect ‘Casablanca’ fashion the ending has a weight and impact often missing from many of those iconic Hollywood fantasies. This is a fairy tale about the pursuit of dreams. There are no guarantees.
J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend (who adds some killer musical talent), and Tom Everett Scott all contribute nicely to what is predominantly a two character piece. While much credit is due to Justin Hurwitz’s beautiful, period reflective music and songs. And to “Dancing with the Stars” choreographer Mandy Moore on the epicly staged routines. A production that’s fueled on the love of both movies and music.
Wishful thinking that the world of cinema, now seemingly out of fresh ideas, would stop pilfering comic books and 80s TV shows and, like here, turn to the glory of 1940s and 50s movie magic–when they knew how to present a story with flair. ‘La La Land‘ is easily one of the best films of 2016 and for film fans (and everyone else) a no-brainer Must See.