Review 379: La La Land (2016)
La La Land and the hype surrounding it was enough to make me drive into a busy city in order to see this movie. I went in with a fear that the musical aspect of this film would not appeal to me. However, this is easily one of my favorite movies of the year. Possibly, of all time, but only subsequent viewings will prove that to be true. Nevertheless, I loved everything about this film. The cast, production, story, music, lighting, and direction by Damien Chazelle were all amazing and elicited a feeling of pure joy from me. It’s probably pretty obvious, but I give La La Land the Must See rating.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista with aspirations of being an actress. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist struggling to find his place in a world that seems to have forgotten about jazz. After a few chance meetings, the two embark on a romantic pursuit of their dreams.
It’s easy for me to understand why this movie had such an impact about me. My students, the ones who pay attention at least, know that I’m all about pursuing passions. Teaching film almost requires me to have this perspective. The risk is so high, but if you love what you’re doing it is worth it. I love film and this year I pushed myself to do things with it that I’d only considered briefly in the past. This movie connected with me on a thematic level and is likely why I love it so much.
The cast was perfect
Then again is has Ryan Gosling who I’ve learned this year has so much range as an actor. I watched Nice Guys, Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines, and now La La Land. He is essentially a different character in every one of these movies. Gosling is also my favorite aspect of each of those films. He’s natural and charming but also brings exactly what the role calls for. I was even more impressed that he sings in this film, and I’ve already listened to the soundtrack. He’s not going to win a grammy or anything, but he’s definitely got talent in that respect.
Now, Emma Stone on the other hand is not an actress I’m often impressed by. She’s been in plenty of movies I like. Her performances are often extremely similar and not always impressive. However, she nails it in this movie. There are some great scenes of pure emotion and also impressed me with her singing. She is the true lead of the film and I loved her character Mia. Mia is extremely relatable and a character that I genuinely wanted to win.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on production so I often leave it out. Also, aesthetic qualities in film don’t often stick with me after the pictures are gone. When they do I know they are worth mentioning. The set design, the costumes, and the lighting in this film are all so gorgeous. The opening dance number features many extras in solid color attire that are vibrant and really fit with the song. The views that the characters see are amazing and the obnoxious couple who sat behind me at the theater couldn’t shut up about them. While I agreed with them, I wish they realized they weren’t in their own private screening.
I’m very happy that I drove the hour to see this film. My daughter also enjoyed it and noted she’s not a big fan of musicals usually. In reality, neither am I. However, I don’t discount a movie simply because it’s a musical. This film works for me on every level and is definitely one I recommend and plan to buy as soon as I’m able to.