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La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) is a brilliant throwback to classic Hollywood musicals – bursting from the seams with energy, heart and wit and bolstered by terrific performances from leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Stone) cross paths in Los Angeles while trying to make their lifelong dreams a reality – Sebastian wants to own his own jazz club and Mia is looking for that big break that will propel her career. The two fall in love, but the harsh reality of their careers forces them to make some tough choices.
It’s rare for any movie to not only deliver on its lofty ambitions, but exceed all expectations. Writer and director Damien Chazelle has followed up Whiplash with a movie that’s just as, if not more brilliant – while the former relied on nail-biting intensity, the later sweeps you off your feet with irresistible charm, weaving a profoundly moving tale in the process.
Gosling and Stone are the living, throbbing heart of La La Land. Their chemistry is effortless, their comedic timing impeccable and their physicality lends itself perfectly to the musical genre – they seem perpetually on the verge of breaking into song and dance. As starry-eyed and overtly sentimental as the movie can get, there’s a sincerity to the characters and the story that makes for compelling drama. Their successes and failures, their heartaches and woes, they all resonate, even when the movie threads where so many others, both musicals and romantic comedies, have before.
The musical numbers are lively, elaborate and all around wonderful, with memorable music that will be stuck in your head for days. La La Land embraces both the wide-eyed, boundless optimism and energy of those that dream big, and the crushing lows that come with aspiring for greatness in a remarkably clever way that never feels jarring or misplaced. The ending is so perfect it literally had me in tears.
The cinematography is bright, distinct and vibrant – there are enough gorgeous frames in this movie to fill several art galleries. If there is any fault to be found within La La Land, it is so minimal that it would be barely worth mentioning.
As a throwback to a bygone era of Hollywood showmanship, La La Land is outstanding. Anyone with even a passing interest in musicals or cinema in general should see it – it’s that simple.