Jan 27, 2017

[Movies] La La Land (2016)

My love for musicals has a lot to do with being raised on the big movie musicals of old Hollywood and other movies of the period. Our family always had a love for the classics and we watched many such movies time and time again. In hindsight I'm grateful for that sort of exposure as I love having that sort of context when watching movies.

I set out to watch La La Land with Tobie precisely because so many reviews have mentioned how this movie is sort of an ode to that period of Hollywood. The posts for the movie alone did their best to paint this particular picture by showing its lead stars in a dance number that could have done by the likes of Fred Astaire.

But this movie is much more than a tribute piece. It's a movie that is passionate about many subjects and it tackles each with gusto. It's a movie that was both familiar and yet new. I was comforting yet surprising.

In other words, it was a great movie.

Synopsis: La La Land is a 2016 American musical romantic comedy drama movie written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the same man behind the intense drum movie Whiplash. As of the time of this writing the movie has already received numerous awards nominations including an almost ridiculous 14 Academy Awards.

The movie begins with introducing us to Mia (Emma Stone), an on-studio barista and aspiring actress and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist hoping to open his own club to help "save jazz." Their first meeting is a rough one involving a traffic-crowded Los Angeles highway, but the two keep running into one another time and time again. At the same time both struggle getting their foot in the door for their respective fields.

But something happens and their interactions shift from being almost antagonist to something more as a friendship blooms into something else. Both are terribly passionate about their respective fields and somewhere there they start to find common ground. But it's hard to pursue romance when you're also pursuing your dreams.

What I Liked: There's too much to love in this movie that is both feel-good and yet also painfully real. The story does a lot to tickle the heartstrings and play on nostalgia but it also turns things around and tries to present you something new. Stone and Gosling and brilliantly suited for their roles and are obviously quite comfortable working together.

More than that there's a lot of care that went into how this movie was put together. I feel like Chazelle was making sure that this movie would survive the sort of criticism one would get from internet personalities like Every Frame a Painting. as the shots were longer, more creative and did a lot to help establish scenes. From the music to the shots to the acting, there's a lot to love about this movie.

What Could Have Been Better: One can't help but feel that this movie was more Oscar-bait that we typically get at the end of a calendar year just in time for the awards season. It's a good movie but it's also one that plays on a lot of themes and concepts that we have seen done well with the Academy over and over and over again. In that sense the release of the movie gets a little tainted by movie awards thinking.

And there were still moments when the shot choices felt more like gimmicks than necessary to advancing the story. Other times you have acting moments that felt a little off or either over or under played. There's a raw quality to the movie that sort of celebrates the little imperfections, but that still means those flaws are there.

TL;DR: As I said in a social media update, La La Land is a brilliant movie that celebrates a love for Los Angeles, jazz, old Hollywood, movie musicals, taking chances, and dreamers everywhere. It's a movie that will warm your heart and make you smile but also make you think about your own life choices and the path you hope to take forward. Thus the movie gets a great 5 dance numbers we all needed in our lives out of a possible 5.

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