Sometimes a film that otherwise may have gone unnoticed or been underappreciated, enters the world at just the right moment to capture the public’s attention and win their hearts. “La La Land” hit its moment perfectly.
Directed by Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash) with original music by Justin Hurwitz, this simple and sweet film harkens back to the days of the classic movie musicals, but has just enough of the real world in it to make it relatable to modern audience.
As the title not so subtly implies, “La La Land,” tells a story of two dreamers looking for their lucky break in Hollywood. A young actress/barista, Mia (Emma Stone), is going to audition after audition without much success when she first crosses paths with the underemployed jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Their relationship has a bumpy start with Sebastian blowing past Mia as she compliments his playing.
From there, well the film follows a well-worn path, but with some serious retro-style. After their not so friendly meeting, they engage in a classic musical cliché — the not-a-love-song. In this instance, it’s an adorable tap number set in the Hollywood hills entitled, “A Lovely Night,” where the future couple enjoys the beautiful view that would be perfect for two people who aren’t them. It’s reminiscent of movie musical standards like the Gershwin’s “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” The two go toe to toe in this lively and slightly combative number that is one of the film’s many musical highlights.
Their paths continue to cross, and eventually the two give into the inevitable and start their relationship, which goes swimmingly until it doesn’t. As to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave you there. It’s a happy ending, although maybe not in the way that the old Hollywood musicals would have played it.
Emma Stone shines as the plucky, “Disney princess,” wide-eyed, optimistic, young ingénue. And Ryan Gosling as the struggling jazz musician with high standards, can add song and dance man to his resume. The duo’s musical styles play well off of each other. Neither is too overpowering, and they complement each other nicely.
“La La Land” is a classic Hollywood musical for a modern-day audience. It has just the right amount of grittiness to feel real, but in the end it stays true to its name and offers a pleasant break from reality. Which it turns out, is just what the world needs right now.
…just for fun: