PLOT- Reminiscent of classic Hollywood musicals, Damien Chazelle's La La Land, is the story of aspiring actress, Mia ( Emma Stone), and down on his luck jazz pianist, Sebastian ( Ryan Gosling). Can Mia and Sebastian continue to chase their dreams and grow their relationship? Or do they have to choose between passion and love?
LIKE- I was hesitant about La La Land. I love musical theatre, but general do not like movie musicals. Musicals are a different experience on the stage, I like the energy in the room. Movie musicals don't create the same type of energy. I always feel that they are awkward. The title worried me. I hate when people refer to Los Angeles as La La Land, because it is usually used as a slight, said by people who are not from LA. I've never heard a local use that nickname, and I've never heard it said in a positive way. Would La La Land be a slam on my hometown?
Very quickly my fears were put to rest, La La Land is a true love letter to Los Angeles. Sure, there is some gentle mocking: the opening scene involves a fantasy song/dance sequence during heavy traffic on the freeway. Mention of our lack of seasons and perpetual sunshine is a running joke. There is truth to these stereotypes. But just watching the date montage, where Mia and Sebastian tour the city, riding Angel's Flight and strolling across the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, reminded me that there is no place that I love more.
I quickly fell in love with the music. The songs are original and fresh, but most important, they serve the story. Thankfully this is a musical with songs, rather than singing dialogue. There are many pure music sections, without singing. There are elaborate dance sequences and fantasy scenes, but not every song is accompanied by flashy visuals. It all serves the story, and the story is so damn good.
Mia and Sebastian meet when they are both facing a crossroads in their artistic careers. They are each at a personal low, considering giving up on their dreams. Their intense relationship flourishes due to their passion, not so much as couple, but as muses. They each inspire the other to keep working towards their dreams. They are helped by the creative energy of the city. Los Angeles is very much its own character in La La Land.
The epilogue caught me off-guard and made me cry. Since leaving the theatre, I've been feeling melancholy and reflective. However, there was no better way to end the story. This was the only way it could have possibly ended. It was perfect. The ending supported a comment that Sebastian makes early in the film, when he is trying to explain his love of jazz to Mia, he talks about how jazz is all about improvisation, the different musicians placing their own stamp on the song, changing it. La La Land is about the people that drift into our lives and change us, sending us on an entirely new course. Life is constantly evolving, and we never know who will affect our lives or in what way.
The story is beautiful, such fabulous writing. Stone and Gosling have off-the-charts chemistry and each gives a really strong performance. All of the many things that I love about living in Los Angeles are made even more magical in La La Land. This story made my heart fill with joy and then shattered it, as the best movies manage to do.
DISLIKE- La La Land made me intensely homesick for Los Angeles. It reminded me of all of the beautiful and amazing things about living in LA.
RECOMMEND- Yes! Thinking back on all of the films that I've seen in 2016, I believe that La La Land has been my favorite. It's flawless and affecting. As a bonus, I got to envy Stone's gorgeous costumes, and spend two hours with Gosling, one of my celebrity crushes. He's so hot!