Film Review: "La La Land"


Stone and Gosling in "La La Land." (Photo from "La La Land" Facebook page)

Stone and Gosling in "La La Land." (Photo from "La La Land" Facebook page)

With seven Golden Globe nominations, two Screen Actor’s Guild award nominations, and in the American Film Institute's (AFI) top 10 films of the year so far, “La La Land” comes into the last month of 2016 with a huge bang.

Director Damien Chazelle writes and directs this traditional Hollywood musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Having numerous acknowledgements already, as well as earning some of the highest film ratings of the year, is “La La Land” something for everybody, or just diehard Hollywood fanatics?

Set in modern times, “La La Land” centers on two people, one trying to make it big as an actress and the other being a jazz pianist trying to express his love of the music genre, who meet and eventually fall in love. Both display their passions toward one another, and encourage each other to follow their dreams no matter what anyone says.

It’s as basic of a plot as it can get, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In fact, it does the formulaic plot really well.

There’s a lot to love about this film. The acting, for one, is spectacular. Both Gosling and Stone carry the film for its entirety and they do it without many issues. They’ve been shown as not just great actors, but also a dynamic duo, being in a couple films together previously with “Crazy, Stupid Love” and “Gangster Squad” showing their incredible chemistry on screen.

The only small gripe about them is that both aren’t that amazing of singers. It’s not that they’re bad, in fact, they’re really good, but they aren’t Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers (but that’s a really unfair comparison). But this issue is immediately thrown out for how much effort they put into their roles by being able to be triple threats (actors who can sing, dance, and act, some of which they had to learn for the film).

It’s also admirable for them attempting something not many actors do nowadays, or what either are really known for. There’s no doubt that they’ll be nominated for Oscars, which are rightfully deserving to both. Hopefully one of them wins (Stone in particular) as they have done some of their best work ever in this film.

Chazelle’s projects have focused on music. He wrote the 2013 film, “The Pianist,” and directed and made the screenplay for the 2014 critically acclaimed “Whiplash,” so there wasn’t much skepticism when it people found out he was working on “La La Land.”

He truly has a diehard passion for the artform and it shows here with the amount of detail in every shot and frame of the film. A lot of the dance/musical numbers have very imaginative and breathtaking cinematography and choreography, one scene being where Stone and Gosling are floating in the stars at the Griffith Observatory.

Music wise, it’s great too. The songs sound nice to listen to, fit the style of the film, and actually progress the plot forward. The film sounds and looks like it took a traditional musical and gave it a 21st century makeover, almost like an entire homage to Hollywood, bringing a nearly dead genre back into the mainstream.

This film is a love letter to those who dream of success. The film doesn’t approach it in a corny way like Disney, but rather a realistic way as both Stone and Gosling’s character’s struggle to reach their goals in a competitive location like Los Angeles (which is shot beautifully). “La La Land” tells the audience to never give up and do whatever it takes for you to succeed, which is a message that is always good to be reminded of.

The only issue with the film is that while it is harkening back to the old school Hollywood musicals, the plot suffers by being both predictable and sometimes not making much sense. Other than the ending, which is amazing, the plot plays it safe by not taking any different turns, making it easy to know where it’s going. There are also parts of the film that either are dropped or didn’t add to anything. A lot of musicals do that, though, so props to “La La Land” for being consistent.

Even with that issue, it doesn’t detract anything from the film.

“La La Land” is without a doubt one of the best films of the year. It delivered everything I wanted it to and I happily left the theater satisfied. It’s hard to really find any major issues with it other than a standard plot. For not being the biggest musical fan, it’s still easy to recommend “La La Land” to anyone. There’s enough love and effort put into it that will leave everyone amazed.

For being such a disappointing year in film, it’s nice to know there are a few gems out there. “La La Land” is one of them.

"La La Land" already set to be regarded as one of the best films of 2016. (Photo from "La La Land" Facebook page.)

"La La Land" already set to be regarded as one of the best films of 2016. (Photo from "La La Land" Facebook page.)