Practically flawless. So this is a modern musical set in Los Angeles. A jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) start to fall for each other, but will they be able to find a balance between their love lives and the pursuits of their personal careers? Now this is from Damien Chazelle, who is the director of my favorite movies of 2014, Whiplash. He is back at it again, and there is a very good chance that he has directed my favorite movie of 2016 as well, as La La Land really is that impressive of a follow up.
I don’t know who we have to bribe to get more movies like this, but somebody please look into that.
I actually knew surprisingly little about this movie going in, only the people associated with it. I was on board and floored by the time the opening number was finished; it starts with an extremely well-choreographed number on a onramp to the highway that is filmed in one shot. The fact of the matter is that we just don’t get to see all that many original musicals nowadays. This really did take me back to some of my favorites, like Chicago and even Singin’ in the Rain. This is a movie that was meant to be told to the artist, or to the one who puts on some sort of performance for an audience, and if you have the smallest bit of connection to that world, you’re very likely going to fall in love with this movie. It’s meant for the struggling musician, the aspiring movie starlet or theatre actress, and while I’ve never had the calling to have my name put in bright lights, this way of life has surrounded me for years and years. All of the details fire on all cylinders, and it is expertly crafted. I really want to see what Chazelle tackles next (it looks like it is Neil Armstrong biopic), and he adds so many touches and flourishes that it makes the movie. From the hypnotizing art direction to the dazzling color palate, he’s a director that knows what he’s doing. It almost seems like a completely different movie from Whiplash, but then the one element came back and made me know it is him: his love of jazz. If there is one thing that makes this movie as special as it is, it is how fabulously the music is executed. My wife has been binging on the soundtrack ever since we’ve drove away from the AMC, and just about every song gets an emotional reaction out of me after the fact.
You can probably guess what I’m listening to as I type these words.
This is terrific from start to finish, and it ends on a particularly strong sequence. It is very much a L.A. movie, and a hugely successful one at that. There is so much to love about this, and there are so many bits that just take your breath away. I don’t think there will be another movie that will enrapture me more this year, and it is a very special movie that is the equivalent to lightening in a bottle. Almost everybody I know is raving about it, and I don’t think they are overselling or overhyping it, it really is that good. It is beautiful to the point of being captivating, and I love this movie.
La La Land (2016) *****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016? See for yourself here.