‘La La Land’ sings and dances its way into hearts

Tyler Manning

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land (2016). Photo courtesy of IMDB

In honor of it finally coming out on Blu-Ray, I feel like it is finally time to express my thoughts on La La Land in writing. I have seen this movie three times in theaters and vehemently recommend it to everyone I know, it is safe to say that I love this movie. It encapsulates everything I love in film and is one of my favorite musicals to this date.

So why do I love La La Land? I think when asking that question about any film, it is the combination of a few well-executed parts that makes a movie great rather than a specific quality. With La La Land, the film’s strengths are pretty apparent: strong performances, a great musical soundtrack, characters with clear, relatable goals and motivations and beautiful directing.

First, lets talk about the characters and the performances. To me, characters are the most important part of a story. The story should be a byproduct of characters trying to achieve their goals and not the other way around. If I do not feel invested in or at least understand a character’s motivations, I typically tend to get disengaged in the story. One recent example of a movie that had an interesting premise but no real characters to invest in was Rogue One.

In La La Land, the audience is presented with the characters of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Mia is an aspiring actress who dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Sebastian is a pianist who dreams of opening up his own jazz club. The story that follows relies solely on them trying to be in a relationship while also pursuing their own dreams. All subsequent conflict in the film is caused by their inability to balance their relationship and maintain their same aspirations. Although not the most complex characters or story, it acts as a good foundation for a musical and is thoroughly engaging.

What also bolsters the film are the great performances by Gosling and Stone. In my review of Fifty Shades Darker, I mentioned that the goal of a romantic movie is to make the audience believe that the two characters are in love, and this is where Gosling and Stone soar. Both have genuine chemistry that translates incredibly well onscreen, giving the audience a sense that there is a real bond between the two. Both actors play to their roles greatly and are perfect fits for this movie.

The music in this film is also fantastic. Upon leaving the theater after my initial viewing, I immediately went to iTunes and purchased the soundtrac — I still listen to it, even to this day. It has a great sense of character and personality to it and features a plethora of great songs.

My final point for why I love this film is the directing. I hold a lot of respect for director Damien Chazelle. After viewing his last Oscar nominated film Whiplash (which I wholeheartedly recommend) and now La La Land, it is clearly apparent that he has a solid grasp on the language of film. The cinematography is film is beautiful. All of the musical numbers are well-directed and Chazelle’s expressive visual style serves the story beautifully. It is clear when watching this movie that it is being directed by a man who has a grand vision and knows exactly how to translate that to the screen.

Overall, La La Land is a film that stuck with me well beyond my time at the theater. It is an incredibly beautiful movie that I can see inspiring many future filmmakers. It draws in its viewers and is sure to make you heart sing.

Rating: 9/10

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