By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
Talk about a movie I could have easily passed on reviewing here, I have never seen a full trailer of the new musical romantic comedy-drama, La La Land in theaters and I knew practically nothing about the film, outside of that it’s a musical and Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl, Drive, The Ides of March) and Emma Stone (Superbad, Easy A, The Amazing Spider-Man) are in it. But after every film enthusiast I know constantly recommended it to me and the critics going nuts for it, I caught a showing of the film one night after all the Rogue One hype.
And, it would have been a crime against humanity if I missed out on this movie, I mean it, it’s so damn good. The music, the cinematography, the characters, it just made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside, yes, I am going “Ga-Ga” for La La Land (Do I still sound professional by saying that? I don’t care, it’s my blog so I’m sticking to it!).
It’s an interesting film for writer/director, Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Whiplash, 10 Cloverfield Lane) to follow up his last critical hit, Whiplash, because this is pretty much lovey-dovey fluff compared to that movie. Nevertheless, it’s another win in his filmography, it works beautifully as a musical, a love story, and as a thoughtful tribute to jazz music, classic movies, and pursuing your dreams.
The film is set in modern day Los Angeles and follows a young woman named Mia (Stone), a coffee shop worker who aspires to become an actress. She meets a man named Sebastian (Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, spend some time together, and they soon fall in love.
Mia and Sebastian are both struggling to make ends meet in a city notorious for crushing dreams and breaking hearts. Sebastian wants to be a successful jazz musician and Mia wants to be an actress and they do the best they can to help each other out in a world that’s pretty at first but then it shows its ugly colors.
The film also stars singer, John Legend (Soul Men) as Keith, Rosemarie DeWitt (Cinderella Man, Standoff, Rachel Getting Married) as Laura Wilder, J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash, Zootopia) as Bill, Finn Wittrock (All My Children, American Horror Story, The Big Short) as Greg Earnest, Tom Everett Scott (Van Wilder, Saved, Southland) as David, Meagen Fay (Seinfeld, Magnolia, Malcolm in the Middle) as Mia’s mom, Damon Gupton (Deadline, Whiplash, Criminal Minds) as Harry, Jason Fuchs (The Sopranos, Law and Order, Holly Rollers) as Carlo, Sonoya Mizuno (Ex-Machina, Beauty and the Beast (2017)) as Caitlin, Callie Hernandez (From Dusk till Dawn: The Series, Blair Witch, Alien: Covenant) as Tracy, and Josh Pence (The Social Network, The Dark Knight Rises, Gangster Squad) as Josh.
Overall, La La Land is a very satisfying musical experience, filled with songs worth tapping your feet to, likable leads, and a near-perfect balance between drama, humor, and heart. Literally all it took was the opening song, Another Day of Sun, to get me hooked on the film, a similar feeling I got when I saw Frozen and Moana for the first time, and I will gladly purchase the soundtrack because of that impact.
But let’s cut the crap and be honest, what really sells this movie are the performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I mean, dammit, Ryan Gosling is so charming, I want him to hold me and carry me to a castle whenever he’s on screen.
Sure, we’ve seen Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in romantic relationships before in films like Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, but thanks to their mad talent and a well-written script, you care about them in this film and want to see them earn their happy ending. Plus, it helps that both Gosling and Stone are two of my favorite actors to begin with, put them together in a movie, I’m sold every time.
This could very well be one of my new favorite musical films of all time and it’s a much better Oscar bait in the genre than the 2012 Les Miserables, which I personally didn’t care that much for (Buy your torches and pitchforks here!). Unlike Les Miserables where the actors feel like they’re phoning their singing in half the time, La La Land’s musical numbers feel very natural, and accompanied with the cinematography and lighting, it really feels like you’re watching a play.
I cannot stretch this enough, if you like…good movies, see it, see it, see it, see it, see it, see it, SEE IT! Whether you’re a fan of musicals, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, or just looking for a feel-good movie to watch this Christmas, La La Land is a magical trip you’ll want to take.