Monday, December 26, 2016

[Review] La La Land

"Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem..."

My heart aches, but I LOVED this movie.

After the breakout, drum-driven Whiplash, talented director Damien Chazelle goes for a full-on musical with La La Land. It's a passionate love letter to the joys and pains of Tinseltown. An exuberant homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood. A stylish CinemaScope marvel. It's as unabashedly vintage as it is rejuvenating. As escapist and surreal as it is genuine and now.

Setting the stage is a brightly jubilant opening number amidst L.A.'s infamous traffic (the sequence garnered cheers from the audience during my showing). From there, over the span of four seasons, we follow the blossoming romance of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who, yes--works at a coffee shop, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz musician. While the film takes place in the smart phone present, it recalls the spirit of classic musicals from the '40s, '50s, and '60s like Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin' in the Rain, and The Music Man. It's a glorious fusion of time and panache.

Every frame: Gorgeous. Every song: Wonderful. Between the glowing splash of primary colors, the rich layers of sounds, the starry spotlight illuminations, the waltz-y camerawork, and the gleeful dance choreography, La La Land is the epitome of an elaborate production. It's enchanting. It's magical. And it's incredibly delightful to the eyes and ears. The film's main leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have an undeniable chemistry (it's their third film together!). Gosling is endlessly charming, capturing an old-fashioned eagerness. His vocal delivery is nasally and imperfect, but it's forgivable. It's human. Stone often steals the show with her immense magnetism, big beaming green eyes, wide range of emotions, and impressively good singing voice. It's the stuff made for Oscars.

But La La Land is not all sunshine and smiles. Beneath all the glitz and glamour is a swirling tone of sadness. The nostalgia for bygone eras and dying genres... The closing of landmark theaters... The push-and-pull between holding onto tradition or changing with the times... The relationship strains and harsh ironies that arise from diverging career paths... The conflicts in chasing your fantasies, sacrificing your values, or settling into "the real world"...  The hurt and heartbreak of rejection...

However, there's also the perks of perseverance, the importance of an uplifting nudge (or a "Honk"), and the power of dreams. In La La Land, the best endings aren't always happy--they're bittersweet.

* 10/10 *

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1 comment:

  1. Awesome review mate, couldn't agree more. I loved this movie (and it kinda hurts when my girlfriend says she only 'liked' it). It's just so joyous and touching, not to mention the craftsmanship too.