La La Land breathes life into a neglected genre in spectacular fashion!
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical
La La Land is a film that I was looking forward to watch for a long time. It was much hyped and naturally I had very high expectations for it. It is one of those rare films that has enjoyed both critical acclaim and commercial success. To put it in short: Yes, it delivered! It was nothing short of a magical ride in the city of Los Angeles. The stunning visuals, beautiful imagery and heart felt performances made it a very memorable watch. One of the reasons its gathering so much attention is its originality and uniqueness.
La La Land starts off with an audacious musical number in the middle of the Los Angeles highway. This scene is amazingly filmed in one long, continuous shot and sets the tone for the rest of the film. We are eventually introduced to the characters of Mia (played by Emma Stone), a struggling actress and Sebastian (played by Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz musician. The film follows the story of how they meet and fall in love.
As with a film of such nature, the way the story is presented is more important than the story itself. The engaging musical numbers make sure that there is never a dull moment throughout. There are many uses of long and continuous shots, reminiscent of Birdman (2014). In fact, it is quite obvious that La La Land has been inspired by many films, especially from old musicals like Singin’ in the Rain. This is evident in the film’s style and aesthetics. Nevertheless, La La Land still has its own distinctive feel. Damien Chazelle successfully manages to blend the visual styles of both modern and conventional cinema to produce something new.
Back to the story, Mia and Sebastian both have big dreams to pursue their art but in reality are not that successful. They eventually meet each other and find strength from each other to stay determined in the pursuance of their dreams. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry in the film and both give great performances as well.
At one point in the film, Sebastian says, “This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!” A major theme of the movie is conflict, especially the one between dreams and reality. There are many instances in the film when a musical number is happening in full flow but is ended abruptly by some worldly disturbance such as a ringing cell phone. This signifies that dreams and reality will always clash with each other. This is reflected in the film’s narrative as well. Whenever, something thing good happens with Mia or Sebastian, it is often followed by some bad news, mirroring the unpredictable nature of life. Moreover, comedic moments are also smartly woven into the narrative.
On a technical level, La La Land is very sound. The cinematography and direction make the film an immersive cinematic experience. The costume, set design and color editing play their part in transporting you to the ‘dream world’ of Los Angeles. La La Land has very fresh and beautiful visuals that manage to blend reality and surrealism.
Another major theme of La La Land is the conflict between old and modern, in general. Sebastian is a Jazz Pianist who absolutely loves old Jazz music but is fed up with the recent trends in the genre. He wants to bring the old Jazz music back to its former glory. I feel that this theme was represented visually as well. You might not be able to figure out if the film is set in modern day Los Angeles or olden Los Angeles. The credit for creating this fascinating gray-state again goes to the film’s breathtaking and surreal visuals.
Damien Chazelle is clearly a guy who loves to take risks. Making a musical film with original songs nowadays might seem to be a crazy idea but this crazy idea really played off with La La Land. There are some moments in the film in which Chazelle almost pushes to the boundaries of ‘pretentiousness’ but these scenes still manage to work and add to the beauty of the film.
Overall, La La Land is fascinating, probably the best movie of 2016. It is new and innovative yet it also pays tribute to old and classic Hollywood. This is a film that has the potential to be remembered for a long time to come!
FINAL RATING: 5/5