‘La La Land’ Review

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Directed by Damien Chazelle

Written by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone

★★★

“La La Land” delivers something that has been missing from Hollywood for some time: the musical. I mean a musical made for the screen that had not been adapted from a Broadway show, a Disney cartoon, a music film like “Sing Street,” or a jukebox musical like “Pitch Perfect” – technically it is a combination of music film and jukebox musical, but the example works. The last musical (to my knowledge) that meets these criteria is “Newsies” from 1992, for the youngsters, “Newsies” was a movie before it was a Broadway show.

I know that this is an overused cliché, but they just do not make movies like “La La Land” anymore. It is not only a musical; it is a comedy and drama. A perfect blend of all aspects of all those genres. This has got to be one of the greatest musicals ever made, on par with something like “Singin’ in the Rain,” a film that was clearly a significant influence on “La La Land.” The songs in “La La Land” are fantastic; they are jazzy old-time Hollywood musical style numbers. Think the songs that Irving Berlin or Cole Porter wrote for the musicals from the 1930’s and ‘40’s. The score is brilliant, consisting mainly of two beautiful melodic motifs that underscored the entire movie, and would be rearranged to fit the needs of a particular scene. One of the best, if not the best, score of the year. The choreography is great, one of the numbers – my favorite in the movie – “A Lovely Night” is classic Astaire/Rodgers, from the way they dance to the way they interact with each other.

The Performances that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone give are incredible. Both of them will receive nominations in their respective categories come time for the Academy Awards. Gosling will not take it because of Casey Affleck’s performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” Stone, on the other hand, is giving Natalie Portman a run for her money, so much so that I do not believe that Portman has it as locked in as I had thought. Portman does the kind of thing that the Academy loves, she played a historical figure and played it well. While Stone, on the other hand, gave the more exemplary performance – I have seen “La La Land” twice now, and will probably see it a few more times when it opens at the theater that is slightly closer to me in a couple of weeks. They both showcase their full range as actors dramatic character scenes, witty comedy scenes; Gosling and Stone are both actors who can easily do both comedy and drama. “La La Land” is the Gosling/Stone show, all the other actors in the movie are nothing more than featured extras. Save for John Legend, who is like three or four scenes, while every other non-Stone or Gosling character is in one. That is not a bad thing because Stone and Gosling are all you need to make this picture compelling.

“La La Land” is the best movie of the year. I hope that the success of this film brings about a renaissance for the Hollywood musical because it is damn time that someone made musicals a thing again. Full disclosure I love musicals and naturally have an enormous pro-musical bias, so you can trust me when I say you need to see “La La Land.”

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