I was looking forward to the follow up film from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle and he did not disappoint with La La Land. This film is a beautiful callback to the movies and musicals of old Hollywood infused with a modern touch. It transports you to a place where the lives of two dreamers, Sebastian and Mia, are looking to make it big in acting and music until their lives intersect with one another. Once together, Seb and Mia are inseparable yet are forced to choose at separate times in their relationship whether or not to live a life of love or continue to follow their dreams to see if they can in fact come true. That is pretty much the underlying theme throughout La La Land, but far below the surface there lies a story that pretty much everyone has to face at some point in their lives therefore making the character’s struggle an empathetic plight for the audience. To “grow up” and move on from the thing that you had dreamed of doing is something that very many of us have done in our lives (thus this blog’s existence), but to make that same decision in the face of love allows for some truly gut-wrenching and life changing consequences to unfold. This movie does a great job of showing both sides of this decision; both the good and the bad sides of how that can manifest in a person’s life and ultimately telling the audience that there is really no wrong answer as long as you are happy.
Where La La Land shines and truly comes to life is through its music. From the very beginning which boasts a gigantic musical dance number on the LA Freeway during rush hour traffic, you know you’re in for great musical numbers and beautiful set pieces. The music is as much a character as Sebastian and Mia and is used at the perfect moments to convey feeling just as much as the actors onscreen. Chazelle’s love of Jazz is on full display through Sebastian’s commitment to educating the masses on just what true Jazz is. The score heavily features jazz pieces alongside sweeping orchestral pieces that put you in mind of big musical numbers performed in the films of early Hollywood.
The set designs and color choices were also breathtaking and popped off the screen. I was left wanting each scene to stay on screen for additional moments so that I could take in all of the background scenery because every frame had vibrant colors and vivid details where you wanted to take all of it in and not miss anything. Simply put, the movie was absolutely gorgeous and Chazelle chose his colors carefully to the point where along with the music they too evoke a mood on camera.
At times, the cinematography could get in its own way. It was reminiscent of 2015’s Birdman where there was a constantly moving camera that seemed to bob and sway along with the accompanied music. The camera is similar in La La Land where it floats and swoops in and out of scenes. This works at times, but during others it can be slightly distracting and almost detract from the movie. It’s a minor occurrence and doesn’t even come close to being a downgrade on this film.
Overall, La La Land was making a strong case for being the best movie I’ve seen in 2016. That was quickly knocked off the day after I saw this when I went to see Moonlight, but that’s a write up for another day… La La Land features solid performances from its cast, an incredible soundtrack, larger than life musical numbers and beautiful settings all coming together to form an incredible film that stands out above many many others from this year. I can safely say barring something crazy happening from now until the end of the year, La La Land is currently #2 on my top 10 of 2016. Go see it as soon as you can.
LA LA LAND – 5 GARYS