Keith: How are you gonna be a revolutionary if you’re such a traditionalist? You hold onto the past, but jazz is about the future.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
This movie has ranked among one of the best of 2016. I hadn’t seen this movie back then so I decided I ought to not pass judgment as to whether it deserved to be held in such high regard. A year later I saw it in the guide while channel surfing and I put it on and watched it. Upon seeing it, yes it is truly a beautiful movie in many regards.
The story involves aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and aspiring jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Both are drawn to one another and begin a relationship with their common desire to achieve their dreams. But in the process of achieving success decisions are made by both that threaten to tear their relationship apart.
Visually speaking the movie is a beauty to look at. The costumes, the set pieces, and overall cinematography do well in capturing the extravagance and enchantment of an old fashioned musical. It does well in making the movie look overall alluring and gives it a unique style. Damien Chazelle’s direction shines in making the imagery look bright and colorful but not to a point where it gets distracting while also letting various camera techniques speak for themselves But of course a good movie needs substance in story, characters, performances, and of course music to fall back on and fortunately…it does.
The story doesn’t do much new or groundbreaking in terms of a bittersweet love story but it tells its story with such a brilliant execution that it feels like you’re seeing this story for the first time. Right off the opening number the movie absorbs you in a beautiful and unusual world that gives us insight into both leads: The talented Mia who is struggling to make it big and Sebastian, a man who wants to save the art of jazz music and whose journey gives us the details of the genre while delivering a good variety of songs that deliver so much through the most simplest of methods. Together both Mia and Sebastian create a tale of love that appeals to hopeless romantics but adds layers of realism with the simple truth of complications that can arise in life.
The movie is very aware of modern culture particularly with Sebastian having to compromise his dream by joining a jazz-fusion band but it doesn’t seek to disrespect change or evolution and cling to the past but rather integrates both the old and the new in a way that respects both of them.
The music is captivating from start to finish. Another Day in the Sun has some spectacular choreography. Stone sings a powerful and moving piece with Fools Who Dream. Someone in the Crowd is a catchy and upbeat song that could not leave my head for over a week after listening to it.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling bring their A-game and a great deal of charisma to both the characters of Mia and Sebastian. Stone brings a great deal of spirit of a struggling actress but it’s done with enough distinction that you legitimately feel for the character when she’s faced with a cold rejection at every turn. Gosling’s performance carries a sense of confidence that makes him enjoyable and at the same time it takes the time to point out his shortcomings to prevent him from becoming entirely egotistic or unlikable. The talents of both actors are wonderfully shown off particularly with Ryan Gosling learning how to play piano for his role. As for the rest of the supporting cast their characters aren’t the most developed and they are mostly all over the map but they do add a layer of charm even if they are on screen for a mere minutes.
La La Land is overall a movie filled with heart and soul that is simply breathtaking in just about any area. The story has some great substance, the visual style and music is amazing, and the characters can connect to a wide range of viewers. It very much respects the old while trying to bring something new. Each minute of the movie just delivers something special and will draw you in with its overall aesthetic.