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This review could be populated entirely with effusive adjectives because La La Land inspires… effusion, enthusiasm, love.
What a remarkable film this is. It is so very different from anything I’ve seen this year. It is different from anything I’ve seen for years.
The marketing for the film has kept most of what occurs and what it’s about secret and I do not wish to spoil much of anything. La La Land is a movie that best plays out as a glorious surprise so reading this review will not ruin any of that experience.
What I will say is what you already know: La La Land is a musical and the music, most of it, is simply terrific. It is the type of music that makes someone want to buy the soundtrack – which I already have.
Emma Stone is typically wonderful as struggling actress Mia. She has a beautiful voice and is a very good dancer as well. Very few of her peers play humility and wholesomeness the way Stone does and both of these attributes are on full display here. Stone anchors the movie – it revolves around her – and she’s more than up to the task. When she’s not on screen, you wonder what she’s doing. When she is, you don’t want her scenes to end. She’s so very, very good here. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.
And she is ably supported by Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a jazz musician on a mission that may or may not include Stone’s Mia. Gosling can come off as too clever by half in some roles, but not in this one. He’s funny and sweet and, if his voice is not quite as good as Stone’s, he makes up for that with smooth dance moves and terrific piano work – though we don’t hear him on the soundtrack, word is we could, so good did he get during preparation for the movie.
Praised for its inventive opening number (the only scene of the film that, ironically, didn’t hit home for me), La La Land starts fast and does not slow down. It involves you in Mia and Sebastian’s story right away and weaves a narrative that is confident and clear. This is a movie that knows what it’s doing and there is nary a misstep or an out of place scene. Watch it carefully. Watch for its color and images. Listen to the musical themes repeat. There is little left to chance here and all is put together to amaze an audience.
Count me among the amazed.
La La Land is a towering achievement for sure to be Academy nominated director Damian Chazelle. This follow up to last year’s Whiplash (which was awesome in its own very different kind of way) shows Chazelle already at the top of his game, in command of each visual and sensual image, in concert with this talented cast. He’s worked something of a wonder in La La Land and it is a movie that everyone – yes, I mean everyone – should see.
Grand and sweeping, La La Land will take you places few other films ever dare to these days. For that, alone, it stands out.
Do yourself a favor. See La La Land. Experience it on the big screen.
It’s an amazing time at the movies…
LA LA LAND receives FIVE CHICKENS ON A STICK out of a possible FIVE.