[Photo courtesy of Gilbert Films/Imposter Pictures/Marc Platt Productions/Summit Entertainment]
9 first kiss interruptions out of 10
I want to start by saying I don’t really go for musicals, so you understand that when I say “La La Land” is an excellent film it’s because it’ll be an excellent film for almost anyone. Set in modern day Los Angeles and made in the vein of classic holly wood musicals, the film follows a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma stone) who fall in love. Their chemistry combined with the films gorgeous cinematography simply makes this the best new film I’ve seen all winter.
One of the most visually stunning films of 2016, “La La Land” uses its setting, Los Angeles, to such an extent that it becomes a character of its own. Nearly every scene is used to develop L.A. and the film really nails the flavor of that particular area. And that’s important because it’s a building block of “La La Land” even at the conceptual level. The film transplants a classic Hollywood musical into modern day Los Angeles, so it had to nail its setting. But the film doesn’t just blindly depict L.A.; it displays a version of L.A. that is frequently colored by the influence of Hollywood musicals. Throughout the film, colors are incredibly vibrant, which when posed against the dull tans and greys of L.A. evokes Technicolor film in the best possible way. And it bleeds into the musical sequences too, which on the sole basis of their choreography could have been stunning.
One of the major problem with modern day musicals is that their musical sequences do a number on the films pacing. They feel unnatural and awkward and they don’t really fit with the story that’s being told. “La La Land” simply never has that issue. The musical numbers all feel like natural extensions of the scenes they’re in and it never really seems odd that the two main characters are breaking into song and dance. The scenes themselves are both frenetic and riddled with incredible long shots. It sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but it leads to sequences that are impressive both visually and technically.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have actually co-starred as romantic interests in a previous film called “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011). Their chemistry was a high point of that film and that continues to be the case in “La La Land.” If anything their chemistry as actors has matured with them in the intervening years and they work incredibly well together onscreen. “La La Land” does an incredible job of taking advantage of that chemistry, essentially tracking their relationship over the course of a year. It’s an incredible amount of weight to put on the two actors, but they absolutely rise to meet it. Their relationship carries the film along with its sincerity and consistently makes for engaging scenes.
Ultimately, “La La Land” is an incredibly unique film that does everything it has to do good, great. It has a exceptionally uplifting message that never for a moment feels clichéd or forced and musical sequences that follow suite. Its moves along at an almost feverish pace remaining efficient despite its longish 128-minute run time. I thoroughly enjoyed what I believe to be one of the better films to release in 2016, and I have to stretch my imagination to think of someone who wouldn’t enjoy it too.