La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is a musical that tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who can’t get a role, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist, two dreamers who meet and fall in love while trying to survive in Los Angeles, the city that takes dreams and crushes them into nothing.
I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest musical fan. While I do enjoy several like Hairspray and Singin’ in the Rain, musicals don’t really draw my attention very often. This film however, was a special case because of the talent that is involved with this film. Damien Chazelle wrote and directed the amazing Whiplash, which was nominated (and should’ve won, in my opinion) for several Oscars in 2015, including Best Picture. This meant that either that film was a fluke or Chazelle has real talent and I was excited to find out (spoiler alert, he has massive talent). I also love Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I think both of them are incredible actors with Gosling being someone who is almost always overlooked in his roles, i.e. The Nice Guys earlier this year. Just because of this talent I figured that this film would be good, but I was not expecting to watch one of the most beautiful and wonderful films that I have ever seen.
I just want to start out singing the high praises of Damien Chazelle. He proved that he is not a one-hit wonder with Whiplash, but a director who is going to stay relevant for a long time to come. And, from what I know about how he got to where he is, he is a dreamer like Mia and Sebastian.
Chazelle’s directing is flawless. I could tell he was obviously influenced by the aforementioned Singin’ in the Rain when it came to the production design choices, colors, and camera movements in this film, but he makes something entirely his own. He even homages Rebel Without a Cause, and creating something new out of it. The colors that he uses are so vibrant and beautiful and create a sense of awe, just from the color palette alone. Chazelle also utilizes long takes during most of the scenes in this film, whether it be normal dialogue takes or the musical numbers, but when he does with the musical numbers they are, simply put, amazing. The entire first number is one take on a highway and it immediately draws you into the film and sets exactly the tone that this film is going to be. Chazelle is also able to deftly mix the modern day setting with the classical Hollywood musical film that was present throughout and it worked so well, that I really had to pay attention to the fact that he was mixing the two different eras together.
The performances from the two leads are fantastic as well. Ryan Gosling is one of my personal favorite actors, and very underrated at that, and it is very hard to find something that he isn’t good in. This film is no different. This is easily one of his best performances, up there with Drive and The Nice Guys. The standout of the two though was Emma Stone. Not to take anything away from Gosling, but Stone’s performance was heart-wrenching. As I am writing this paragraph I am listening to the power ballad that she has towards the end of the film and it is so powerful. She is incredible in this film. Stone and Gosling’s chemistry is also some of the best chemistry between a screen-couple that I have ever seen.
Normally, this is where I put the items that I thought weren’t good in the film, but I honestly have nothing. Not even a nitpick.
Overall, La La Land proves that writer-director Damien Chazelle is not a fluke and that Gosling and Stone are two powerhouse performers. I have only said this about three other films The Empire Strikes Back, Apocalypse Now, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but La La Land is a perfect film. It is going to win so many Oscars come awards season and I implore everyone to go see it.