La La Land

From Damien Chazelle who received a Academy Award nomination for best director for 2014’s Whiplash, La La Land is a vibrantly energetic film that revives the musical genre to its former glory. At its heart, it is an ode to old Hollywood and the thriving contemporary metropolis of Los Angeles. The movie follows a young woman named Mia, terrifically portrayed by the fresh-faced Emma Stone, who has moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Like many other young actors and actresses, she has dreams of hitting it big time, but she has the typical experience of being rejected and stuck in a dead-end job to make ends meet. Through a series of chance encounters, she meets an equally aspiring young artist named Sebastian, played by the brilliant and handsome Ryan Gosling, and they began a whirlwind romance told through exuberant musical numbers. Sebastian himself is an old school jazz pianist who has difficulty breaking through the highly commercialized music industry, and he has dreams of opening an old fashioned jazz club. Like the film’s style and genre, both characters feel like they are from a bygone era and remain idealistic despite the challenges they face in their respective rapidly changing and business-oriented entertainment industries. This new paradigm is reflected by John Legend who plays a musician catering to contemporary taste simply to make a buck and forces Sebastian to face the harsh realities of the music business. What makes the movie so special is its interspersal of wildly energetic and magically shot sequences in which the characters sing and dance in highly choreographed fashion, reminiscent of Fred Astaire musicals. The film employed the rather clever technique of dimming the lights around the characters as they began a musical sequence. Not particularly a fan of musicals, I was pleasantly surprised that the filmmaker only used musical numbers when it was necessary and not too over-the-top to be distracting from the storyline. Overall, I found it to be one of the more joyful and exciting experiences I have had at the movies: the musical elements were effusively entertaining and the plot was well-crafted nostalgia. I would recommend it to those looking for a light-hearted time that harks back to the heyday of old Hollywood romance and musicals. 

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