La La Land, 2016
Directed by Damien Chazelle
La La Land tells the stories of two dreamers, Mia and Sebastien. Mia dreams of becoming an actress but is working as a barista, trying to get her first break. Sebastien is a jazz pianist who dreams of owning his own jazz club, but can't even seem to keep any piano jobs long enough to save up. The two encounter each other several times before falling in love, and dancing, together. And while the two gross closer they start to wonder if they can have both each other and the things they dream of at the same time.
Whiplash was my #1 movie of 2014, soLa La Land was by far my most anticipated movie of 2016. I fell in love with each other the trailers and was hoping and hoping this would finally mean a very overdue second Oscar nomination for Ryan Gosling. And finally upon seeing this film last week, it exceeded my expectations.
Once we get past a somewhat weak though fun opening number, we launch right into the stories of Mia and Sebastien. Emma Stone plays Mia and I am really, really glad that Emma Watson didn't end up playing her like she was originally was supposed to because Emma Stone was really perfection for this role. Stone brought so much to the role and made Mia incredibly rounded as a character. Also, can we talk about the amazing costumes she (well, and everyone else) gets to wear? The set designs and costumes are really lovely, giving it both an "old Hollywood" and a very modern feel.
And I know most people are talking about Emma Stone, but my true favourite was Ryan Gosling as Sebastien. Had Gosling been born 60 years ago, I feel like he would've been a huge musical star. He brought so much warmth, charm and grace to the role of Sebastien, yet he was also very fun and meaningful. Again, this role was perfection for Ryan Gosling and I can't imagine anyone else doing this role but him.
The music was also fantastic and never felt too cliche for musical music. This is a musical that's both nostalgic and self-aware, which I feel is a very hard line to walk but La La Land does it perfectly. It both loves the past but is also so forward-looking. Even the musical moments themselves are often self-aware of how silly breaking out into song is in movies. It's great fun but it's also incredibly introspective.
I don't really know what to say about this movie that hasn't already been said. La La Land is a crowd pleaser and that ending is truly fantastic. I won't spoil anything, but I haven't seen an ending that perfect and sad and happy and wonderful since Mommy. This is a film that leaves both with heartbreak but also a smile on your face as you exit the theatre. It's a film that can be both enjoyed on a very surface level but, like Whiplash, there is much more to discuss underneath about nostalgia and compromise and dreams and love. Chazelle does an excellent job of not just making a happy-clappy musical but a story with depth and complexity.
If anything, just go see this movie! It will be incredibly worth your time as the music is excellent, the acting is perfection and it'll leave you in a cloud of happiness. This is a wonderful, wonderful film.