To call La La Land amazing would be an understatement. Damien Chazelle’s new LA-set musical is absolute perfection.
La La Land proves that Chazelle’s Whiplash was no fluke. Written and directed by Chazelle, the cast features Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Pence, and JK Simmons.
This has been a project that was six years in the making for Chazelle. Without Whiplash‘s success, the chances of it still being pitched to producers is very high.
Stone stars as Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress and works as a barista. Gosling stars as Sebastian, a jazz musician who hopes to own his own club one day and wants people to care about jazz again. Both are struggling in Los Angeles, a city that is known for crushing the dreams of many. Set in present day Los Angeles, La La Land is a musical that takes us back to the heyday of 1950s musicals. It’s an homage to the great musicals of the Golden Age, channeling both the magic and energy of those classics.
The movie starts out on the freeway with a fantastic musical number, “Another Day of Sun.” Sebastian is stuck in traffic behind Mia and as fate would have it, she would bump into him at the jazz club. The rest is history.
What Gosling does in the is bring real determination to Sebastian. Sebastian wants to stay in LA but his stubbornness comes from his passion rather than his ego. As a jazz pianist, that’s all Gosling on the screen and not a double.
As for Stone’s Mia, the barista keeps going on dead-end auditions and after a one-woman play goes poorly, she runs out of town. As luck would have it, a casting director saw her play and fell in love with her. All Mia wants to do is catch that break as an actress. As an audience, we feel for her and want her to find that success.
“To me, it was important to make a movie about dreamers, about two people who have these giant dreams that drive them, that bring them together, but also tear them apart,” Chazelle says of La La Land.
What Chazelle achieves with La La Land is successfully telling a story of how one balances life and art through music, song, and dance.
“With La La Land, I wanted to do a love story and I also wanted to create a musical like the musicals that entranced me as a kid, but updated into something very modern, says Chazelle. “I wanted to explore how you use color, sets, costumes and all these very expressionistic elements of Old School movie making to tell a story that takes place in our times.”
This film would not be a success without Justin Hurwitz writing the score, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul writing the lyrics, and Mandy Moore (not to be confused with the singer-actress) working on choreography.
I am very picky when it comes to watching musicals but I could watch this one again and again. This is how absolutely perfect it is. If not for the work of Casey Affleck and Natalie Portman, Gosling and Stone could have easily won the Oscar this year.
Distributed by Summit Entertainment, La La Land opened in theaters with a limited release on December 9th before going wide everywhere on December 16th. The movie will expand to further theaters on December 25th.