For some reason, the previews for La La Land were not very enticing to me. I was pretty okay with skipping it if I had to, but the more reviewers and friends alike went gaga over it, I figured that maybe I should make it a priority.
La La Land is a movie that presents itself as a musical, and although there are certainly elements of a musical within it, there is a distinct reasoning for why there are certain musical elements to it. The reasoning for it makes the songs and choreography that much more meaningful and that much more entertaining.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both absolutely phenomenal in their roles. Their characters are not what I would call distinctive and memorable, but they both have opportunities to show extremely compelling emotions, and they both succeed near flawlessly.
What really enhances their performance is the chemistry between them; their interactions immediately sell you on their romance and their relationship. Their characters are primarily defined by their relationship with each other, and their careers. Normally, I am against having a person’s career be a primary defining feature, but this movie makes their passions interesting, enthralling, and definitive.
What makes this movie exceptional though is their astonishing use of cinematography in storytelling. During every single choreographed music number, it is all done in one single, flowing shot.
At first, I thought that this was just them trying to impress me and the rest of the audience, but the longer I watched the movie, the more I realized that there was a reasoning for those as well: during the choreographed songs and/or dances, there is almost a dreamlike state that the movie takes, a fantasy, a sort of “la la land” trait to them.
But when the movie hits our characters over the head with unpleasant reality, the shots do not flow in one single shot. Instead, there are more cuts, shot-reverse-shots, etc., as if reality is more jarring than the ideal fantasies of their romance and ideals.
Aside from the very subtle cinematic storytelling, the movie also has some extremely subtle storytelling in the colors the movie uses, especially in the dresses that Mia (Emma Stone) wears. The colors in the movie are vibrant, intentional, and so subtle that you’ll miss it if you’re not paying attention.
The dialogue in this movie is intelligent, humorous, and organic. The banter back and forth between Stone and Gosling is engrossing and charming. But the great dialogue does not end with them; everyone in this movie does well with their lines and their performances. There is not one performance I can think of that was bad.
And when all of these elements come together, the story effortlessly grabs ahold of you. This movie will make you happy, bummed out, and one point even had me close to tears. So many interesting themes are tackled in ways that feel fresh and new. The movie made me think of how your life’s passions and your life’s romances can compliment and conflict each other, and how life is constantly pulling people towards the new while forsaking the old ways.
The music in this movie is fantastic. It’s half jazz and half musical, but the musical bits are not so cheesy or ridiculous to take any non-musical lovers out of the movie, and the whimsicalness of the scenes are only enough so that they get their point across. If what I say does not convince you, just know that I am not one for musicals anymore; I think they are largely wasteful and irritating. But I never felt that way about the musical points in this film.
La La Land is meticulously crafted, and thus the raw emotions that it produces are nearly second to none this year. This film put the viable chemistry between Gosling and Stone to excellent use, and it utilized every single visual and audible form of storytelling exceptionally. This is one of the best movies I have seen all year.