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Writer/Director Damien Chazelle, who already had a nice career going
for him, explodes into the Bigtime with this delightful, mesmerizing,
and completely unexpected ode to Tinseltown.
The opening sequence (satirized on the Golden Globes) really does not do the rest of the film justice. It is as if the cast from the FAME remake grew up, had children of their own, and then those children hijacked the Santa Monica freeway to do a 10 minute flash-mob dance sequence.
From that point on, the film is hypnotic.
We segue to a love story as pure as anything since the great dramas of the 1940s. If the film had been in B&W, you would almost have expected to see Bette Davis in a 3-hankie tear jerker.
Except for the musical interludes, of course, which are pitch perfect and totally wonderful.
Gosling is surprising as a leading man expected to do song and dance, but he delivers the goods.
Stone, who was supposed to be "the next big thing" after Easy A (2010), steals the film and possibly the hearts of the audience as well. The awards should flow like water, and she will deserve every one.
As I said, deep in the DNA this is an ode to Hollywood. The film industry has always had issues with endings -- back in the day they would film several different endings per picture -- and then decide at the last minute which to use. Here Chazelle pays homage to that by giving us an alternate ending, along with the "real" ending, along with a closing sequence designed to remind everyone that nothing in Hollywood is actually real, but everything still can be really fun.
Destined to be a classic. Recommended.
The last time, I felt like this, in a cinema, I was six years old and I
was watching Star Wars. I never imagined, I would ever find that
feeling again in a cinema. That sense of being transported to another
The opening sequence took my breath away and I never got it back. Not even at the end - which left my head spinning. It is a beautiful film with soul, wit, charm, style and love. It is simply outrageous! Bold and fantastic and fantastical.
I am a straight man but my love for Ryan Gosling could change all that. He's a melancholy genius and Emma Stone is our muse.
This film defies genre. It is a masterpiece. I urge you to see it. I was lucky enough to see it at the BFI London Film Festvial.
It has been five days since I saw La La Land and I am still thinking about it and singing the haunting refrain that plays with your soul. I mean it gets in there - that music - the music of the firmament. Flying still, dreaming still... thank you Damien.
I was interested in seeing this film because not only am I a sucker for
a good musical, but I'll admit to being a big fan of Ryan Gosling and I
was intrigued to see what the director of Whiplash would do with a
musical picture to make it fresh and unique. So when I had the chance
to see a late-planned viewing at the London Film Festival, I jumped at
the chance (FYI, Ryan Gosling came to the screening as a surprise post-
film Q&A attendee despite not appearing at the Headline Gala the night
before so I was chuffed!)
The premise of the story is that Stone is a young actress who has moved to LA to wait tables while auditioning to try and 'make it', while Gosling is a jazz purist ("Anyone who doesn't like jazz just doesn't have the right...context", he insists) who plays the piano in bars to make a living and dreams of opening his own Jazz bar. Or to put it succinctly - "Two young artists meet and fall in love while chasing their dreams". The musical flows thematically from first love to heartbreak and every other emotion between, with great music throughout.
The most impressive thing about the film, for me, is just how daringly it dances between the old-fashioned "Singing' In The Rain" style of musical, and a bolder, modern style. The song numbers are great (the opening number received a round of applause in my viewing) and are an undoubted homage to classic musicals - a thoughtful mixture of old school dance numbers you'd expect from a musical in the 50s, and emotionally-wrenching ballads that hit you where it hurts; there is one particular sequence toward the end of the film which is a real gut-punch.
Stylistically the film skirts this same line; the film again looks and acts like a classic musical but frequently we see low-key reminders that this is modern day; actresses using their iPhones, a video being seen on Youtube, etc to remind us that this is set in the present day. If we didn't have these reminders, the visuals would almost have you thinking that this is the 1950s. The cinematography is beautiful and overall the film is visually stunning. There is also no doubt that it is wonderfully directed, with the same masterful control of pace and tension that we come to expect from Damien Chazelle thanks to Whiplash.
Gosling in particular is absolutely terrific, with a typically sardonic wit throughout. At the start of the film when his sister says she's worried about him as life seems to have him on the ropes, he responds "I wanna be on the ropes. I'm just letting life think it has me and then before you know it - BAM. It's a classic rope-a-dope". His delivery of these sorts of lines can't be matched, and it's easy to see why the producers said in the post-film Q&A that he was the person they wanted for the role in their wildest dreams. It's a role made for him with tons more of the above kind of lines. But more than that, Gosling captures a real emotional intensity at the film's emotional breaking points, more specifically in the sequence towards the end of the film that I mentioned earlier. He manages to convey such convincing emotion without so much as a word.
I'd feel bad if I didn't also praise Emma Stone, who has probably never been better. She has wonderful emotional range, from the ecstatic highs of love to the tearful, painful lows.
In terms of the Gosling/Stone films, this is by far the best. Their undoubted chemistry is given the full spotlight in this film with freedom to explore said chemistry without restriction.
The film is ultimately everything it had the potential to be - an unashamedly romantic musical, infused not only with great song and dance numbers but with intense emotion and charisma from Gosling/Stone, wonderful visuals and a unique pacing and tension from Chazelle. Oh, and it's hilarious throughout too. A genuine achievement - must be one of the best films I've seen in a long while. I'm annoyed I'll have to wait so long to see it again, frankly.
Will surely win multiple Oscars and other awards.
An observatory, a boulevard, a bridge, a downtown trolley, all make up
filming locations of the new film "La La Land". These locations are
iconic, yet remain unnamed throughout the film. The sum of these
locations create the city of Los Angeles. Any meaningful production is
a sum of its cast members and in the case of "La La Land" there is no
difference. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) come together
to create a wonderful production, but a lesser known yet ever present
cast member is the city itself. Throughout the epic musical sequences,
the city in its whole is either visible or represented by its historic
street lights. Some might argue that the city is a backdrop to the
songs and dancing of Sebastian and Mia but the city itself takes center
stage with the vibrancy of a leading man. It lends its beauty to be
danced upon by Sebastian and Mia without relinquishing its hold as
being the center of attention.
Mia being a minor actress in Hollywood goes to casting calls where those auditioning look the same. This image of Hollywood conformity lends itself to the character of Sebastian who has to change his performance identity much in the same way Mia has done in order to fit in and make a living in the beast that is Hollywood. With this being said the performances of Mia and Sebastian are one of a kind, lending itself to a sort of fantasy adaptation of falling in love. The imagery of the film stops at nothing to convey the idea of love and the concept of a soulmate, while the business aspects of Hollywood coupled with the necessity of survival keeps the two characters at odds. The film represents a city, a city that often times is at odds with itself; a city that identifies talent based on familiarity rather than the unique and often overlooked aspects that create it. Ultimately "La La Land" is a story about conforming and not conforming and the gains that can be had in between. LA is marketed as the land of dreams, yet is often overlooked and stacked on a pile of dreams that will never come to fruition.
The film explores the idea of "what if", and tackles the idea of a working Hollywood versus a Hollywood where the idea of art is paramount. "La La Land" focuses on the idea of money versus art, and shows that nobel aspects of creativity are often ignored to focus on the monetary aspects of the industry while leaving behind the very art that drove them in the first place. The movie is very much paced in the realm of Hollywood where the cadence of the film is action packed with all the fervor of a young person entering Hollywood for the first time, yet as Mia and Sebastian learn the inter-workings of Hollywood the film slows down to reflect the realities that are faced when having to juggle income and art.
"La La Land" reignites a fire that has been lost from a Hollywood that is so focused on relaunches and reboots. It's refreshing to see a totally unique film, especially one that grasps the nature of Hollywood and Los Angeles in such an unconventional way. The singing, the dancing and cinematography move in perfect concert to give the appearance of something larger than life. The long musical sequences often border on the surreal, taking the shape of a wonderful dream with dance numbers in the clouds and in the stars. Yet at times the pacing of the film seems to trail off to a point of being boring, this is quickly remedied, but remains an aspect that should be looked at in editing.
Watching "La La Land" is like being awake during a wondrous dream, there is something unique and magical about the chemistry between Mia and Sebastian as well as the visuals of Los Angeles that surround them. As he sits at his piano, Sebastian sweetly and softly sings Mia a love song, a powerful couple of lines that represent love, art and life. "City of Stars, are you shining just for me, City of Stars there so much that I can see, Who knows is this the start of something wonderful and new, Or one more dream that I cannot make true." With "La La Land" a dream has come true, and made its way onto the big screen.
La La Land is a triumph on so many levels. It hooks you from the
beginning with its big opening number on the highway and has your heart
fluttering in the club at the end. Damien Chazelle has proved himself
to be one of the most talented directors/screenwriters in film right
The film gets you with its charm. It flows from the dialogue like poetry. The chemistry between Stone and Gosling makes the film livelier. Stone has slowly shown herself as a force to be reckon with in Hollywood and now Gosling has join the ranks after his stellar performance as the jazz pianist who's main dream is watch jazz live on. Stone is a wanna be actress who can't find her way. Together, they thrive off each other's love and support as they try to accomplish their goals together. Each have a chance at their first Oscar gold.
What else helps is a beautiful score and extremely well written songs. I found myself humming "City of Stars" all night long, already saving the soundtrack on every music platform I could. The music and dance numbers are a perfect blend of Gene Kelly musicals and more contemporary stuff like Chicago. The production design helps with this with bright, vivid colors abound from the walls of a passing building to Emma Stone's dress. A charming film only works when all cylinders click. This one was clockwork.
Like Whiplash, the editing is superb, timing well with the score, making it very appealing to the eye. But the cinematography was mind blowing. Able to capture those big production numbers with long swift cuts made it very astonishing. Not a moment seemed overlooked or underdeveloped. Each scene was extremely well thought out to cause the biggest "awe" effect, or to provide strong symbolism.
But the ending is what can really make or break a movie. This one makes it 10x better. It goes away from the predictable musical ending while wrapping up the movie in fellow swoop, opening the audiences' eyes to the entire meaning of the story, beyond the theme of follow your dreams. The idea that dreams are possible when you are willing to strive for them, but life isn't your own la la land. Everything does not end perfectly.
When combining all these elements together, you get one of, if not the best film of the year. In a year where things became bitter, this really ends the year on a high note. Cheers to the dreamers, the men and women behind the making of this musical classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While looking forward to seeing this film but having no real expectations, the film was excruciatingly painful to sit through and I like musicals. Being a former film student,I found this film slow, boring, uneventful and at least an hour too long with unappealing characters. At a point in the film, Ryan Gosling's character looks out over L.A. and says "not much to look at". I said to my wife, "my thoughts exactly" (referring to the film-not L.A.). This made musicals like 'Lost Horizon' and 'At Long Last Love' look like cinematic greatness (and I enjoyed those). They certainly don't make them like they used to.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love musicals, but I must have missed the stand in the theater where
they were handing our the kool-aid for this one.
Based on the hype, I had high expectations. I went in thinking "La La Land" would be like "An American in Paris" or "The Bandwagon," but once it started I realized it was more like "One From the Heart," or "Everyone Says I Love You," although both of those dismal failures had better music.
In this film, Ryan Gosling plays a supercilious piano-playing bore who endlessly pontificates about "jazz." Emma Stone plays his vapid love interest, a star-struck barista who thinks she should be a movie star because she has a home filled with movie posters and her aunt once showed her "Casablanca." Once these two ciphers meet, the audience is subjected the kind of dreary conversation one flees from in real life.
The musical score is deeply uninteresting. Emma and Ryan's hilltop dance is supposed to be reminiscent of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse/Ginger Rogers, but comes closer to Teri Garr and Raul Julia in the aforementioned Coppola disaster.
By the way, the film completely fails to capture L.A. in any way.
Kudos to Emma and Ryan for trying to sing and dance, unfortunately proving that it takes MORE talent than they or most other Hollywood celebrities have to perform in a musical. However, I think that Damien Chazelle should be prevented from ever making another film musical.
If you insist on subjecting yourself to an excruciatingly bad musical, try "The Apple," which is a lot more fun and has better music. To check out good-to-great musicals, see the movies that "inspired" La La Land--the RKO Fred & Ginger movies and the MGM musicals from the 30's through 50"s. Even the recent straight-to-video "Lucky Stiff" leaves "La La Land" in the dust.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The new Hollywood musical with the intriguing title "La-La-Land one of
the most talked about motion pictures in recent years with two of
Hollywood's most attractive and popular younger generation stars, Ryan
Gosling and Emma Stone, can best be summed up in a single three
syllable word ~~. PA-THE-TIC!
-- Gosling, in spite of a name that makes one think of goose liver, is indeed quite handsome in the traditional Hollywood leading man mold, but when it comes to acting or personality he is no Cary Grant or Jimmy Dean, and as far as dancing goes he couldn't carry the jock strap of either Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. His love interest and dancing partner, Emma Stone, a lissome (skinny) redhead with gigantic blue eyes, and no breasts to speak of, is a much better dancer, and generally a far better actor, but seems to have aged considerably since her extraordinarily vivid interpretation of a sexy young college co-ed in love with her murderous philosophy prof in Woody Allen's "Irrational Man" just two years ago. In this picture she is in facial closeup much of the time but looks haggard, worn, and older than she is supposed to according to the story. The dance numbers seem to be an attempt at a homage to Astaire and Ginger Rogers in slow motion, but they are so badly set and choreographed that after a while they just become annoying. One particular Gosling Stone duet set in the L.A. Planetarium is so ridiculous with them antigravitationally traipsing on thin air against a galaxy of stars that it is downright embarrassing. The young lovers are clearly meant for. each other but their divergent career dreams and aspirations, she as an actress he as a Charley Parker type serious jazz musician, keep them apart in the wake of arbitrary script manipulations that seem so phony you get the feeling the actors had to keep asking themselves, "Hold on a sec --what were we supposed to be doing in that last scene?" Pathetic scripting, pathetic unmotivated dance scenes arbitrarily inserted, then ineptly executed -- pathetic unfocused direction - no wonder Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) have such pained expressions on their pretty faces all the time. I actually felt sorry for Emma in some scenes suspecting that she may have been physically unwell while going through the motions. I kept looking at my watch wondering if this thing was ever going to end. The running time was 128 minutes but it felt more like five hours. The final credits with handsome art-deco lettering were a great relief when they finally came up and put this picture out if its misery. No more Damien Chazelle for me. He also directed another sado-masochistic abomination entitled "Whiplash". Give me Mondo Cane ... Bottom line: A film almost as dopey as its dumbbell La-dee-da title.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In Whiplash, Chazelle's first feature, excellent cinematography,
editing, music and design combined with great acting and gripping
scenes. However, it was marred by some serious disconnects with realism
while purporting to be essentially realistic: some of the character
psychologies and story logic were stretched too thin. Ultimately, one
could enjoy the acting and the edit/shot rhythms, and forgive the
Those same flaws from his first picture absolutely devastate La La Land, and they aren't counterbalanced by much more than two very good set pieces (Gosling and Stone's number while he walks her to her car, and Stone's audition number).
There is not an interesting conflict in a scene for the first ninety minutes of this movie. Much of the early tension is based on two good-looking 'characters' who "don't like each other", and on them coincidentally running into each other a few times. ALL of the later conflict between the two main characters hinges on conveniently concocted scene logic that boils down to fighting and breaking up instead of simple solutions like a) sending a text or b) getting out of a work thing or c) saying "I'll see you in a few months". The logic flaws and wholly unearned story points are so bad that it's not really a story; it's more of a unpolished frame to hang a bunch of set pieces on. It intends to be a string of pearls.
But when half of those set pieces are mediocre, particularly the opening number, one is left with uncomfortable waits between the good parts: the story and characters are nothing, and half of the scenes neither deepen the story nor wholly delight. It makes you aware of your butt on the chair in the theater.
Maybe worst of all is this movie's attempt to do with motion blur what Easy Rider did with lens flares. The difference is that 'avoid lens flares' was just a rule about 'professional' cinematography that was broken by a few rebels in the right movie for that. Motion blur is a fairly upsetting thing to look at, let alone on a big screen for shots that last two or three seconds, repeated seven or eight times in the movie. One of them is quite effective: up to some palm trees, 180 degree twist, and back down to the leads as they walk around a fountain. And there are some simple whip pans that are too fast to be upsetting. But this leaves multiple medium-speed motion blur pans, and the movie loses more than it could gain, multiple times, by breaking this rule. (If you feel that there is no 'rule' that says not to do long motion-blur shots when they don't add anything, I'll grant you your point, and counter by saying that the movie looks hideous and nauseating during those shots)
My wife and I found this movie dull. We even dozed off a little. It
appeared to me to be strictly a vanity vehicle for the two stars: their
undeniable good looks and their mediocre dancing.
The plot was superficial with a pedestrian ending. Before the ending, the story line dragged on without much excitement, or even interesting twists. It stretched an oft-told story of romance into a boring feature-length film.
This movie's award performance says more to me about the Hollywood awards themselves than about the movie. The Hollywood community praising itself and it's favored members. Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity (Ecclesiastes I:2)
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