Since The Greatest Showman just came out, and the same lyricists from La La Land worked on the songs, I thought I would review the Oscar-winning film. La La Land stars Ryan Gosling, who plays a jazz pianist looking to save jazz and eventually open his own jazz club, and Emma Stone, a struggling actress looking to make her name in Hollywood through the grueling process of constant auditions. The two characters fall for each other, and the story is told in the style of a modern-day musical.
Despite the phenomenal performances, the real star of this film is the writer/director, Damien Chazelle. This is his second feature film, his first being Whiplash, and it’s hard to believe that looking at the work he did. The film is gorgeously shot, making Los Angeles look absolutely beautiful. Chazelle uses vibrant colors in the costumes, props, and backgrounds to enhance the scenes, especially the dance sequences which are also very impressive.
Mandy Moore, the choreographer, deserves a special Oscar for her work on this film. The opening number is one of the most elaborate scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie and the musical scenes that follow don’t disappoint at all. The songs are some of the best I’ve ever heard in movies, I immediately got the soundtrack after seeing the movie because of how catchy the songs were. The musical numbers are shot using long takes which makes the scenes flow much better. Unlike in many musicals, the transitions between normal scenes and musical scenes are seamless, feeling like they belong.
The performances in this movie are stellar. As I wrote earlier, Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist, whose dream is to open a jazz club, and his performance is fantastic. He does a great job of conveying his love for jazz through passionate dialogue including one great scene where he is explaining to Emma Stone’s character why jazz is one of the best music genres. According to the director, Ryan took piano lessons for three months and did all of the piano playing scenes himself. Coming from someone who plays piano, he plays some songs that would be almost impossible to play with only three months of practice, so he gets extra credit from me.
Emma Stone gives the best performance of her career in this movie as a barista who wants to be an actress, and they do a great job of showing how miserable auditions can be. People walk into the room and interrupt her, no one pays attention, and sometimes she just isn’t the type of person they’re looking for. You get a strong sense of her struggle, yet persistence in becoming an actress.
While both performances are great, they both need to have good chemistry for the film to work. Thankfully, they did and I really bought into their relationship. The two have some great scenes together including dialogue scenes and musical scenes. The film shows the ups and downs of their relationship, and whenever they have problems it doesn’t feel cliché, instead it feels natural and necessary. They can both sing very well, and the dancing scenes are done to perfection.
The best aspect of the movie is the overall theme of following your dreams. That sounds extremely cheesy, but the film manages to integrate it into the film in a way that feels real. They go into the harsh reality that you have to make some sacrifices to go for what you want in life, and everything might not go your way. The filmmakers could have gone for the more glossy and optimistic route, but they are honest with the audience and don’t hit them over the head with the theme. This movie will be relatable to people who have goals and will go as far as they can to reach them.
This movie had a very divisive reception after it was nominated for dozens of awards, but I have to say that the film earned all of them. This proves that Damien Chazelle is one of the best new directors out there, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling give career performances, the songs and dances are some of the best parts, and the film is inspirational throughout.
I’m working on some end of the year articles including my top 10 movies of the year. Those should go up in the next week or two.
Have you seen La La Land? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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