Film Review: La La Land

La La Land is a musical delight, with charming turns by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, whose chemistry will keep you swooning and music that you’ll be humming long after you leave the theater.

Mia is a struggling actor on the audition circuit. Sebastian wants to be the savior of jazz and wants to open up his own club. The two of them don’t necessarily start off on the right foot, but as the seasons move along the two strike up a romance and their professional aspirations might begin to move in the right direction.

That’s pretty much La La Land, a two hander for Gosling and Stone, who court each other through musical numbers and look beautiful while doing it. Now, that isn’t to say the two have some interesting thematic discussions on life, dreams, romance and (because this is a Damien Chazelle film) Jazz, but anyone hoping for more than that in their plot might want to look elsewhere. Or don’t, because the film is so damn entertaining and sweeps you up into these two’s story with such joy and ease that it doesn’t need more plot.

Chazelle opens the film with a couple of big musical numbers, with tons of extras and big ensembles of singers, but after that the focus becomes solely on our two leads and they are able to bear the load more than easily. Stone and Gosling are both movie stars and they’ve both rarely shined brighter than they do here. The only time each of them might have been more adorable was with each other, in that amazing late night courting scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Gosling in particular really stood out for me and I somehow walked away feeling like we didn’t get enough of him. He’s so damn good and charming, my man crush wasn’t fulfilled. Stone is also excellent, and she is the real singing and dancing showman of the pair. Not that Gosling is some slouch, but Stone gets the biggest moments to shine and does, quite brightly.

Chazelle is following up his breakout 2nd film, Whiplash, here and while that was a sort of reshaping of the sports movie genre around the music scene, his love for Jazz and music fits right into the musical genre he brings to the 21st century in La La Land. Not since Moulin Rouge! has a musical film felt so modern without losing its attachment to its genre’s roots. The dance numbers are fresh, while also feeling timeless and the songs feel like classics as soon as you walk out of the theater. All of this is thanks to the framework and direction of Chazelle, whose vision is so clear and seemingly effortlessly executed up on the screen. Chazelle continues to show he is one of the best young directors out there.

Chazelle again is collaborating again with Justin Hurwitz here on the music, and Hurwitz might actually be the star of this film. The music is just wonderful and he is possibly going to block Lin-Manuel Miranda from completing his EGOT, that is how good the music is. Hurwitz’s jazzy roots are all over the soundtrack and the musical base he gives all of the numbers will have you tapping your toes in and out of the theater.

La La Land has four key players to thank for its success, but Chazelle and his whole team deserve credit for creating such a wonderful piece of musical cinema. One of the better films of the year, Chazelle gets a pair of career best performances out of his stars Stone and Gosling, while his musical collaborator Hurwitz also delivers his best work yet. La La Land is not to be missed, and if you needed one last recommendation, my wife is calling it the best movie she’s seen in years.

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