Friday, December 16, 2016

La La Land - Review

La La Land 

Damien Chazelle who wrote and directed the brilliant 2015 Oscar nominated film “Whiplash” and who also wrote the screenplay to this year’s smartly worded “10 Cloverfield Lane”, writes and directs one of  the 2016 front runners for the Oscar Best Picture in his highly imaginative and entertaining film “La La Land”. 

Set in contemporary time, the story of “La La land” revolves uniquely around two characters. Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a dedicated jazz musician. Both are struggling to make ends meet while pursuing their passion and dreams in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts. With modern day Los Angeles as the backdrop, this musical about everyday life explores what is more important; a once in a lifetime love or a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in the spotlight. 

REVIEW: With an airy lightness, cinematic warmth and mild grace in its execution “La La Land” is an abundant joy to watch with its story of love and romance wrapped in its own originality of music, dance and acting performances. Without a single word of vulgarity uttered, it is a sweet and genuinely modern take on the oldest conflict between people; to choose personal ambitions, desires and goals or choose someone you love above all else – above anything. Does your love life intersect or does it diverge”.  

I personally have a lot of 1940’s golden era of movies Don Quixote-ish affinity for romantic stories like this in me, so I know with my comments here some potential viewers will love it as much as I did and others of you will simply not. Why? Because while 70% of the film does remains rooted structurally to straight acting dialog and dramatic performances, the other approximate 30% of the film’s 2 hour 8 minute running time is rich and lush with impromptu romantic song and dance routines and other scenes of fantasy and magic through a backdrop of a dusk lite cityscape, moon lite clouds and couples in romantic embrace while floating among starry twinkling skies. There is even the occasional ensemble dance segments including one in the first 10 minutes of the film on an LA Expressway off ramp during rush hour.  

While it took a few minutes for me to gage the flow and tenor of the films message and pacing, over time “La La Land” slowly moved over me similar to the warmth of someone draping a blanket over me as I slept on the couch with the warmth coming first over my legs, then secondly to my waist and eventually to the blanket being tucked around my face; a smile  came naturally over me in the comfort and joy of what I was seeing.   

Now, not every musical note or dance step in this film is Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers perfect (YOU SAY WHO? ………….BLASPHOMY…….. Go Google them up on YouTube you naïve youngster). But Gosling and Stone are not trying to be perfect, they are trying to capture romantic magic in that moment so you feel what they are feeling.  

Also, Director Damien Chazelle is becoming a great director as he makes this latest effort with a backwards look to an old time period in Hollywood without it really being backward-looking or unoriginal. He takes big risk in trying to tell this simple story, but it pays off big time with vitality and love of life. It’s a delightful celebration of simply being in love and romancing that person with long glances, embracing smiles, holding hands in the dark and soft gentle kisses. “La La Land” is an old school celebration of how people use to fall in love and meant it when someone special came in their life.  

You should see this film in the theater, each frame of it is entertaining, exquisite to look at cinematically, as well as unique looking with its lush lighting, set colorful design and crisp tailored wardrobe. But that is not the only reason to see it.  You should also see it for a particular scene that takes place just place about 5 minutes before the film’s actually ending. It’s about 7 minutes in length and for the sake of not giving anything away I will just call it “romantic reflections”.  In my estimation it is one of most emotionally moving visual passages (with music) I've ever seen either in a musical or any film I have ever seen all year. If you have ever been in love or in love now we all have done this before in those closely guarded private times we only share with our selves. 

I have no doubt “La La Land”  will garner double digit Oscar nominations, including the  Best Picture, Directing, Actress, Actor, Cinematography, Lighting (this film is truly exquisite looking each frame), Original Screenplay, Original Song, Musical Score, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Best Makeup and Wardrobe. 

Throughout the film there is a song with the lyrics…………….. “City of stars
Are you shining just for me? City of star, there's so much that I can't see who knows? I felt it from the first embrace I shared with you”. …………I guarantee if you see it you will be humming the melody as you leave the theater. 

“La La Land” is simply everything wonderful about adult love and everything wonderful about adult life. 

4 Stars

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