Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

An Imperfect, but Sincere Love Letter


La La Land is pure, unadulterated, unsubtle nostalgia flick. Taking the tone and pseudo-fantasy elements from musicals of Classical Hollywood, slaps on new technology, and the new Grant/West in Gosling and Stone, Director/writer Damien Chazelle (of Whiplash fame) film that is a well acted technical marvel even if the story doesn't quiet cut it.

As a narrative....

La La Land is the story of passion for lack of a descriptor. Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) are 2 artists just trying to make it in a city that constantly lets them down. Happy accidents puts the two is the same place numerous times, they dislike each other at first but of course a romance blooms, and the film hits all the cliche points of a romantic comedy. Now I don't know how much of that is just uninspired writing to get to the musical bits, or if it's purposely trying to emulate classical Hollywood in terms of straight corridor narrative, but the fact that I'm bringing it up and that it bothered me indicates that if it's he latter Chazelle missed the mark. That's not to say that the screenplay isn't horrible. The dialogue is actually pretty funny, and the screen presence of Stone and Gosling, who have magnetic chemisty together, really makes the most out of the flat screenplay. I will give the film credit for not ending how i expected it too. Without getting into spoilers, the film ends on a truly bittersweet note, accompanied by a beautiful extended musical sequence (which i'll get to in the next part). Final note on the plot, the film has the same problem as Chazelle's last film, as it's a "white guy tries to save jazz" movie. It comes off as really awkward and forced at times, and leads to some scenes where you don't know if you're supposed to be agreeing with Sebastian (or basically Chazelle) or not

As a musical....

The musical scenes are what you're paying to see, and they're worth every penny. The grandiose musical is a thing of the past, but Chazelle does a great job at making the film feel like you're back in a time of tap dancing on spontaneous songs was the norm. The musical scenes are essentially set pieces, incorporating impressive uninterrupted shots where there's always something or someone moving, a great use of color and special effects, and symmetry, and well written and composed music. The musical scenes work since rather then try to force song and dance into the diagesis, the film opts to make them pure grandiose fantasy, reminiscent of the soundstage dance numbers in Singin' in The Rain. The lyricists, Pasek and Paul, who've worked on Broadway and on the show Smash were in top form here. Justin Hurwitz, who also composed for Whiplash has a future as one of the top composers in Hollywood. The final musical number at the end of the film is one of the most impressive things in film this year, retelling the entire film, and an alternate history in a sequence that runs many of the tropes of classic musicals at once.

Final Thoughts

The film is far from perfect and is obvious Oscar bait, but the pure sincerity of the nostalgia and the technical impressiveness of it makes it a worthwhile viewing.

Song & Dance9

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