REVIEW – “La La Land”
Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash was a drearily masterful exploration of the cost of selling your soul in order to become an artist. Chazelle’s latest film, La La Land, follows similar themes within the realm of passions and pursuits, but is the complete opposite in its tone and outlook on said themes. It’s a dazzlingly colorful, intoxicatingly energetic, impeccably crafted musical that makes you wonder why the genre ever disappeared in the first place. It raises nostalgia you might not even know existed inside of you, taking you on a journey throughout the life you used to daydream about before the realities and responsibilities hit you. It’s an ode to the people who still dream about finding meaning and creating love within their art. It’s a love letter to cinema itself, to music, and to the people who still dare to dream.
Emma Stone plays Mia, an optimistic young woman who aspires to become an actress, as she works on a studio lot as a barista. Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz enthusiast and purist, who is behind on his bills and a bit cynical to world around him. He wishes to one day open a jazz club that preserves what makes it such a unified experience. Throughout the first act of the film, the two of them steadily cross paths within misfortune and failed opportunities. They pass each other off, until it becomes inevitable that their chance encounters mean something. They make a connection off of a mutual understanding for their passion and struggles to achieve ambitions. Their chemistry is one of the many glowing aspects of the film. Not only do they recite their dialogue back and forth to each other like poetry, but the relationship within itself is so genuine and fully realized that you instantly fall in love with both of them. As the film progresses, you get a deeper understanding into what makes them ache for each other. You understand their fears, their dreams, and everything that makes them who they are. Some of the absolute best on-screen chemistry I’ve seen in years.
On a strictly technical level, this is a crowning achievement in what can be done within a minimal budget. The sound design is impeccably woven in and cued at a stunning and exciting rate. The cinematography is lushly colorful, showcasing the feeling and mood in each and every frame. You could pause on any frame of this film and hang it up as a painting. The unique style just makes this world of a heightened Los Angeles feel somewhat mystical to the audience, but simultaneously familiar to anyone who has felt like they’re living in a movie and trying to get to the happy ending. Considering that the genre has been retired for so long, it’s incredible just how much energy and confidence Chazelle brings to each and every musical number here. What’s even more surprising is how much it works and how the audience doesn’t even question it from the opening sequence, which features a backed up highway bursting out into an incredible dance number, singing loudly about the joy of commuting and living in Los Angeles. Another highlight is a duet between Sebastian and Mia as they walk down a street to find their cars after a party, where the sparks first fly between the two. However, nothing quite tops the gorgeous and emotionally riveting final number that will be stuck in your head and heart for years to come. Possibly one of the best endings I’ve seen in the past ten years?
We’re currently living in a time and place where the state of the film industry is being questioned. Is originality dead? And if so, how much longer can cinema be preserved if we keep moving at this rate? Do we still make masterpieces like The Godfather or films that push the boundaries of narrative like 2001? Do we still have the power to revolutionize this art form and push it forward? La La Land is much more than a masterpiece within itself; it’s a firm answer on the question of whether or not film is dead – and the answer is an overwhelming “NO!” to anyone who is still wondering by the time the credits roll. La La Land is everything a moviegoer wants from a trip to the theater. It’s a wonderfully intoxicating piece of escapism that is simultaneously familiar and honest in its message without losing its magic, genuinely original to its core, confident in its own skin, and is absolutely, 100% a masterpiece that will be remembered for years to come. It’s without a doubt the best film I’ve seen, or will see, this year; as well as one of the most magical movie going experiences I’ve had the pleasure of having in my lifetime. We can still make masterpieces. 5/5.
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