La La Land SPOILER-FREE Review
La La Land has been one of my most anticipated films of the year for a while now. Writer/director Damien Chazelle stole 2014 for me with Whiplash, which turned out to be my favorite film of that year. So naturally, his next film was going to be up there for me in terms of anticipation. What struck me about Whiplash was not just how well he constructed the story and characters, but how embedded into the film his passion for music was. So it made sense that his next movie would be a full-out musical. In the past, I haven't been a huge fan of musicals. There are only a handful of ones that I actually like. But from what I had heard, this was a film that even non-musical people could enjoy and appreciate. So I went into La La Land with pretty high expectations. I went in thinking it was going to end up being one of my favorites of the year, and I wasn't proven wrong. La La Land is a masterfully directed film with a beautiful story, fantastic performances, and wonderful music.
A jazz enthusiast (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) cross paths and begin a romance that pushes each other to strive further to achieve their aspirations and dreams.
Let's talk first about the music. I did have hesitations about this being a musical, as I haven't been a big fan of them in the past. But as the film progressed and we got deeper into the story and the characters, I came to really appreciate the music. It's beautifully written, sung excellently by Gosling and Stone. It took me a couple songs to get into it, but luckily the first two songs aren't nearly as good as the rest of the movie, so it balances itself out. Most importantly, it fits the movie. It's not a regular movie that just happens to have singing in it; it very much is woven into the fabric of the film. So ultimately, it makes sense. I came out humming the "City of Stars" song, which I think is a serious contender for a Best Original Song nomination at the Oscars. The music is beautifully composed and performed, and in retrospect, I wouldn't have wanted this movie any other way than as a musical. The performances are also spectacular. Not only do Gosling and Stone sing the hell out of these songs, but they also have to dance and act at the same time. Their chemistry was some of the best I've seen this year, and it really made the movie. There was so much great, playful banter between the two that it made you fall in love with them as characters. Gosling and Stone really knocked it out of the park with this one.
But I think the true star of the film is Damien Chazelle. As of right now, he is my personal pick for Best Director this year. Everything about this movie was excellently directed. The elaborate musical moments with tracking shots and complex dance moves were done with ease. The personal moments between Gosling and Stone were filmed to highlight the intimacy. The music montages were filmed to entertain entirely. There isn't a dull frame in this movie. La La Land seeps with passion from Damien Chazelle. Not only can you just feel his love for jazz, but you can also feel his deep passion for old Hollywood. This does not feel like a movie that would be made today, and Chazelle went out of his way to incorporate so many small homages and nods to classic Hollywood. The cinematography done by Linus Sandgren was impeccable, filled with fantastic shots of LA. This is a gorgeous movie, due to Sandgren and Chazelle. It's also very well edited, making for great comedic moments and excellent choreographed sequences. I do think my favorite scene in the movie, aside from a montage near the end of the film, was this single-take shot involving an LA sunrise, and it was magnificent to watch unfold on screen.
I was not prepared for how good the script was going to be. Chazelle's brilliant screenplay really makes this film charming and captivating. I was drawn into this movie and held by it until the credits rolled. La La Land was surprisingly funny, which I was not expecting. There is some great banter between Gosling and Stone, which really lets you buy into them as a couple. They become the couple you want to be. They are absolutely infatuated with each other, and push each other to strive to become better people, and to achieve their dreams. These characters complement each other in the best of ways, and its brought out perfectly by the performances. I don't really have any negatives for this movie. I loved watching it, and it was a truly magical film. I can't think of anything I had a problem with. I didn't think the first two songs were the best, but it worked because it took me that long to get into the singing in the movie. So, aside from that, I have no negatives.
Overall, La La Land is definitely one of the best of the year. The music is woven into the fabric of the film, and really makes sense for the story this movie is trying to tell. The performances are outstanding, with fantastic chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Damien Chazelle does a phenomenal job directing, and is so far my pick for Best Director this year. The cinematography is beautiful, and it's a very well edited film. The screenplay is surprisingly good, with a lot of really solid humor and light-hearted moments. This movie does a lot to speak about nostalgia and the old making way for the new. It's also a love letter to classic old Hollywood, as well as jazz. It's a simple story, but it works in that way, as the musical elements and stylistic components of the film work to elevate the rather straightforward plot. Ultimately, I think I liked Whiplash more, but La La Land is a very close second. This is masterfully made film, and it's honestly surprising that Chazelle is only thirty one. This guy has a long career ahead of him if he keeps turning in movies like this.
What do you think? Have you seen La La Land? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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