Grateful. Of all the emotional cords this film struck with me (and there were many), I haven’t felt this grateful that someone went out on a limb this far to do something this delightful since The Artist. To be candid, I was suspicious of all the highbrow-gush pouring out for this movie, but it only took about three seconds to fall in love with La La Land. If the opening, single-shot musical number doesn’t make your ears warm, you might as well get up and leave because this won’t be your cup of tea.
You probably already know that La La Land is a modern day musical where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sing, dance and act adorably together. What you probably have no idea about is how well they do all of those things. Especially the dancing and adorable acting. It would be virtually impossible not to be fazed by the charismatic bazooka blast that is Stone and Gosling as they take us through the life of a young couple falling in, out, and through love together.
La La Land is directed by Damien Chazelle, who was also responsible for Whiplash (2014), another alternatively special film that’ll stay with you. He does something that hasn’t been done in 50 years: a contemporary musical that is 100% void of irony, camp, or self referential wink-winking at the audience. It's as earnest as an eight year-old’s birthday party and unabashedly sincere.
For movie buffs, it has a feel reminiscent of the French film musical Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964). However, if there is a likeness, it’s of the homage flavor as opposed to send-up. It’s freaking gorgeous.
Actually, it’s much like an Astaire/Rogers movie set in 2016. They dance much better than they sing, and their chemistry together rolls over any rough/slow spots in the narrative. Again, like Astaire/Rogers, you find yourself being open to see these two in more musicals because they’re so damn charming.
To be fair, the score isn’t exactly Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Stone’s singing ability is not quite Judy Garland to Gosling’s dancing avatar of Gene Kelly. However, the director holds his cards close to the vest and only reveals Stone’s full singing potential in her final lyrical turn at the end. No one will feel cheated even if the torch songs never get too “torchy” and the middle could have used another rousing group number. It’s almost like bitching about the garnish on the plate of a delicious meal.
Ever since Bob Fosse made cut-to-the-beat-editing of musical numbers the state of the art in the early 70s, musical segments have become increasingly frenetic and choppy. Not so here, the numbers are done with as few cuts as possible. Also gone is the self-conscious construct of modern movie musicals where songs are supposed to only happen “organically”. They sing when they wanna sing here without explanation or shame.
There are two major supporting players captured just as beautifully: John Legend and the city of Los Angeles. I swear to God, Chazelle films Los Angeles as lovingly as Woody Allen photographs NYC. They show the world what these places look like when you’re very young and very high -- sort of how this movie made me feel.
Yeah, I’m queer for it.
(Loudinni provides movie reviews under 500 words, sans spoilers.)