In the 1930's Busby Berkeley wowed audiences with his elaborate musicals. He was able to transcend the typical dance number to elaborate choreographed dance numbers that transcended the limitations of the theatrical screen. Berkeley's musicals were a spectacle for audiences to feast their eyes on. In 1952 one of the most beloved musicals was introduced to audiences with Singin' in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. The movie captured one of the most cinematic moments in movie history, and told the story of the transition between silent film and sound. There have been some musicals that have been able to capture audiences since the boom of musicals in early cinema. Audiences took "A Spoon full of Sugar," went through "The Time Warp," discovered "Grease Lightning," found "Pure Imagination," went through "The Seasons of Love," and caught Frozen Fever, yet La La Land was able to acknowledge its past, and make something entirely new.
It seems in the modern age of cinema, it becomes harder to find that sense of escapism some moviegoers seek. Our superheroes are becoming dark and moody, every other movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world, or we are in some kind of robot, zombie, alien invasion set to destroy the world via giant hole in the sky surrounded by rubble. Then there's a movie like La La Land that completely gives the audience pure escapism, and captures the magic that movies can hold. Every time I go into a theater and watch a Woody Allen film, I fall in love again with what movies are capable of doing. There's something about Woody Allen's films that scream at the audience, this is what a movie looks like, this is what movies are, this is the power that can capture millions of people, and make them feel all ranges of emotion, and go deep into thought analyzing themselves. As much as I love Woody Allen movies, Damien Chazelle's La La Land, is a movie experience that hasn't been felt before.
Chazelle tells the romantic story of a jazz pianist, Sebastian falling for an actress, Mia. The beauty of Chazelle's film is from the first moment, the viewer's gaze is captured for the 128 minute runtime. La La Land is able to make nods to Berkeley with the musical number "Someone in the Crowd," and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is reminiscent of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in their number "A Lovely Night." This isn't just a nostalgia film though. Chazelle has a message. The movie starts off as if it's an injection of happiness straight into the veins, something that is missing in modern cinema. It's a movie about taking the everyday struggles, and finding your own piece of paradise in those moments. In the musical number "A Lovely Night," Sebastian and Mia take a stroll looking over the beautiful landscape of L.A. They dance and sing, enjoying each other's company and surroundings until they're interrupted by a phone call. La La Land is about enjoying the beauty around us, and not being distracted or caught up in the business and distractions of life. Despite Sebastian and Mia's struggles, there's always time to daydream, and dance among the stars.
La La Land also presents one of the best musical soundtracks in recent years. Justin Hurwitz is able to create a beautifully haunting soundtrack with his jazz inspirations in songs like "City of Stars" and Emma Stone's heartbreaking performance of "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)." After seeing the movie, viewers will be listening to the soundtrack on repeat, getting caught up in the whimsical orchestra of the "Epilogue" song, and humming "City of Stars" all day to keep yourself in a blissful dream state.This is a movie that will have you smiling from ear to ear, break your heart and leave you in tears, and then send you on your way home wondering why every movie can't be like this.
Be sure to check La La Land out in theaters now.