La La Land (2016)

la la land poster 2016 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Ending brings movie together, escapism theater

Musicals aren't for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:   La La Land

Studio:  Black Label Media

Genre(s):  Musical/Comedy/Romance/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 31, 2016 (Venice Film Festival)/December 9, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

la la land jazz date emma stone ryan gosling

I will make you like jazz…even if I must cram it down your throat

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a musician with dreams of reigniting the love of classic jazz, and Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress hoping to break out from her barista job on a studio backlot.  When Sebastian and Mia meet, their passions ignite their creativity.  Mia and Sebastian are seeing Hollywood in a whole new light, but passion and excitement sometimes means change that cannot be helped.

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land is a musical-romance.  The dramatic comedy was released to positive reviews and made many “Best Of” lists for 2016.  The film was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards (tying the record held by Titanic and All About Eve).  It won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Actress (Stone), Best Original Score, Best Original Song (“City of Stars”), Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gosling), Best Original Screenplay, Original Song (“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”), Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.  The movie briefly won Best Picture when the winner was misread, but Moonlight was the real winner.

Musicals have had a resurgence as of late and different musicals have had different takes on the genre.  It would be easy to label La La Land a post-modern approach to a musical, but it seems like La La Land is actually a little more.

la la land angels flight los angeles ryan gosling emma stone kiss

…an ode to Hollywood and L.A.

The story for La La Land is actually pretty basic and rather predictable in what is going to occur.  You can see where it is going to go and explores the idea of how people change even if they are in love which isn’t an uncommon storyline (in fact it is kind of ironic that the brutal Nocturnal Animals actually kind of has the same basic plotline).  Two creative people might be good to spur creativity, but it also can destroy.

The cast is quite good.  Despite having a lot of minor supporting actors, the movie is essentially Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone for the whole movie (plus a little bit of John Legend thrown in and a cameo by J.K. Simmons who starred in Chazzelle’s Whiplash).  Gosling and Stone control the whole movie and push their acting to the edge due to some difficult performances in multiple styles.  While Stone already had some singing and dance experience (Emma Watson had previously been attached), Gosling learned piano and dancing for his role.

la la land planetarium dance griffith park observatory emma stone ryan gosling

A dance among the stars

The movie’s actual vision is odd.  It is post-modern in the style with the mixing of music and style of dance with a modern setting, but it is almost mocking post-modern in how it does it.  The sets sometimes aren’t polished (like the interstate song and some of the party songs), but they still have that classic musical feel and sound.

La La Land is an interesting movie and a good movie, but I can see how it wouldn’t be universally appealing.  It is a high concept musical that will please musical lovers, but might not win the non-musical crowd.  I think the film’s resolution is strong with its “butterfly effect” reveal, and that really brings together the themes and concepts in a way that elevates the pictures.  In addition to this, La La Land has a sense of levity that feels nice when a lot of films are dark.  Despite some sadness, La La Land is a happy trip to a sunny world…but sunshine and song aren’t always reality.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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