"La La Land" (2016)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and J.K. Simmons

‘A Must-See Musical’

Before I begin this review, I must admit that I’m not a fan of musicals. For some reason, I have never gravitated towards movies in which people suddenly break into song and dance. Although visually appealing, these movies tend to be over-the-top and unrealistic. In this day and age of blockbuster movies, it’s fair to say that musicals have become a thing of the past. It is rare to come across a musical these days, let alone one that is actually worth seeing on the big-screen.

Although musicals are not my cup of tea, Damien Chazelle’s latest film “La La Land” truly blew me away. If you thought that musicals had lost their magic and aura, this film will take you by surprise. A nostalgic tribute to old Hollywood musicals, it brings fresh life and energy to a forgotten genre. Writer-director Damien Chazelle has crafted a modern-day musical that features breathtaking song-and-dance numbers, charming performances and a heartfelt story. A film about dreams, aspirations and the desire to find success in life, “La La Land” offers the most unforgettable cinematic experience of the year. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, you will be truly glad that you saw this one.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, “La La Land” tells the story of two struggling artists whose lives intersect. Emma Stone stars in the leading role as Mia, a young actress who is desperately looking for a job. However, everything changes when she meets Sebastian, a jazz pianist with dreams of his own. Mia and Sebastian immediately fall in love, but soon discover that maintaining a relationship isn’t going to be as easy as they thought.

From here on in, we are immediately swept into a colorful dream-like world where people sing and dance to express themselves. Perhaps, the most important thing you should know going into “La La Land” is that it is a full-out musical from start to finish. In the style of old Hollywood musicals from the 1950’s, there is plenty of singing, dancing and musical numbers. It is not easy to make a modern-day musical in this day and age, but director Damien Chazelle has pulled it off. After blowing away audiences with 2014’s “Whiplash”, he has returned to the big-screen with his most ambitious film yet. Making a musical poses many challenges, but “La La Land” is a perfect example of how to do it right.

If there is anyone who knows how to stage an exciting musical number, it’s writer-director Damien Chazelle. Right off the bat, “La La Land” immediately grabs your attention with it’s jaw-dropping opening scene. A musical number set in a traffic jam, it is one of the most thrilling sequences you’ll see in a movie this year. The breathtaking camerawork, dance choreography and music combine to create a stunning scene that has to be seen to be believed. It’s only the opening scene, but Damien Chazelle has already established the tone and let audiences know what they are in for: a wildly entertaining musical.

Following up that opening scene is tough, but the film maintains a momentum and energy throughout. It’s thanks in large part to the electric chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who deliver terrific performances. “La La Land” marks the third time they have worked together, so it’s no surprise that they bring out the best in each other.

Emma Stone has always been a talented actress, but never really gotten the opportunity to showcase those talents in a leading role. In “La La Land”, she delivers her most impressive performance to date. As a young actress trying to make it big in Hollywood, Stone is heartbreaking and believable. It’s a role that allows her to show off a wide range of skills such as singing, dancing and emotional range. It’s astonishing to see an actress do all that, and one of the many reasons why she deserves to be recognized come awards season.

While Emma Stone has been getting all the awards attention, Ryan Gosling also deserves recognition for his performance. As a deeply passionate jazz pianist, he brings his usual charm and charisma to the role. Aside from his dashing looks, he has perfect comedic timing and delivers the funniest jokes in the film. It’s a performance that proves why he is one of the most talented actors working in Hollywood today.

In addition to being wonderful actors, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are surprisingly good singers and dancers. Thanks to the efforts of this duo, every song-and-dance number in “La La Land” is an absolute joy to watch. The musical score by Justin Hurwitz also deserves praise. It features catchy, original and unforgettable songs. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming the music on the way out of the theater, it’s that good.

Although I absolutely adored “La La Land”, it is not without a minor flaw. At a running time of more than 2 hours, it is a little long. While the first half of the film is fast-paced and energetic, it drags towards the end. That being said, the ending is powerful and almost makes up for the running time. It delivers a profound message about the sacrifices people make when they follow their dreams.

Despite it’s lengthy running time, “La La Land” is a breathtaking film that will leave you overcome with joy. It is one of those rare, one-of-a-kind movies that will inspire you to pursue your dreams in life no matter how unattainable they may seem.

5/5 stars

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