By George M. Thomas
|Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land.|
LA LA LAND is pure magic.
It takes something that younger audiences don’t see very often – the conventional musical – gives it a contemporary spin and realistic take on life, liberty and the pursuit of stardom, and produces a satisfying cinematic experience.
It’s not surprising given the television networks’ fascination with musicals that a filmmaker – Damien Chazelle, who wrote and directed, in this case – would want to bring one to the big screen.
Yes, numerous Broadway adaptations have made their way to the screen in recent years with varied success. CHICAGO proved a smash in theaters. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and RENT? Not so much.
But the distinct difference between all of those films and LA LA LAND – this is no adaptation. It is completely original and takes the story of the small town girl (Emma Stone) and the city boy (Ryan Gosling) trying to make it big in Los Angeles and adds some magic.
Although it more than pays homage to those Broadway adaptations, it shares more DNA with classic screen films such as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.
That’s the first visceral reaction I had to the story of Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone), a duo who meets by chance and begin a whirlwind romance based on their pursuit of their artistic dreams. Mia wants to act and continues to go through the grind while working as a barista on the Warner Bros. Studio lot.
Sebastian’s in love with jazz – an art form that’s far too neglected in this country – and wants to own his own club.
They deal with the ups-and-downs of their respective careers all while trying to make their romance work. Along the way, they and the cast treat the audience to several spectacular moments that transport to another place.
From the opening number of Another Day of Sun to A Lovely Night to City of the Stars to Audition, LA LA LAND flows flawlessly linking Chazelle’s compelling narrative. What’s more is that each song, along with Justin Hurwitz’s score possesses charms of their own.
The leads couldn’t be more likable. But are they believable when they expose their pipes? Indeed, they are, but ultimately it may not matter because they will hold most everyone in their sway.
Just as importantly, however, is that although it’s a musical, LA LA LAND isn’t a fairy tale as Chazelle doesn’t duck the realities of what Sebastian and Mia are trying to do personally and professionally.
Combine it all and you have a romantic, dramatic romp through Los Angeles – which has never looked lovelier on film – worth taking. There is a reason that LA LA LAND is the best film of the year.
Movie: LA LA LAND
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Roberts, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons
Rated: PG-13 for some language
Running time: 128 minutes
George’s rating: 4-of-4 stars