A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K. Simmons, Tom Everett, Rosemarie Dewitt, Finn Wittrock
Rated: PG-13 (some language)
La La Land
By Matt Greene
Whiplash was my favorite film of 2014. It showcased a filmmaker that could control audience emotions with brains, tone and brilliant pacing. So I was very much anticipating director Chazelle’s return to the big screen with La La Land, a decided change-of-pace that is getting almost universal acclaim, and rightfully so. Where Whiplash was an intense drama about ambition and loneliness within the jazz world, La La Land is bright musical about ambition and loneliness within Hollywood. Fully embracing the constructs of old-fashioned Astaire / Rogers pictures while floating them effortlessly into the 21st century, it’s a joyous song-and-dance rom-com that dances far beyond its pretenses.
Gosling and Stone are phenomenal, playing two wide-eyed dreamers looking to make something of their artistic abilities. With the lovely romantic melancholy of Once, the dreamlike song numbers of Singin’ in the Rain, and the character motivations of each, the film wraps itself around our nostalgia before nudging us out of our familiar comfort. The songs are lyrically moving and ready-made for Broadway, and the sets and dances accompanying them would be considered experimental if they weren’t so charmingly classic.
If it seems like La La Land skates by on its charisma, think again. Playing effectively with the line between romance and reality, both in relationships and in aspirations, it asks us if one is inherently better than the other, and is it truly possible to have both? In our search for purpose, must we apologize for every mistake, or can we accept them & even love them? To quote one song directly, “Here’s to the messes we make.” That’s where true love is found. That’s where life is found.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
La La Land
By Cole Schneider
“La La Land” offers some of the best cinematic elements in modern movie musicals. Its style is more dazzling than “Moulin Rouge”, its song and dance numbers are filmed with much more technical skill than “Chicago”, and its melancholic sweep is captured so much more successfully than “Les Miserables”. It really is an understatement to say that “La La Land” is a beautiful, soulful movie-watching experience, and yet, it’s a mixed-bag.
Just because a movie’s form is so aesthetically and nostalgically pleasing doesn’t mean it’s functional, and while “La La Land” is among the more pleasing—even during its down notes—films ever made it still has a severe case of form over function. Its central relationship, for instance, is a romantic respite between two characters that are together because, uh, they did that thing where they lock eyes. They have nothing in common. Except, maybe they do? We don’t really know because we don’t really know anything about them save for she wants to be an actress and he likes jazz.
The film almost pulls it off too, and not just because the form is so dazzling but mostly because Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are such terrific actors. Except even that doesn’t work out like it should because the two are on such different wavelengths. Stone plays her Hollywood caricature with a genuineness as big as the cinematic form surrounding her while Gosling plays against that form, quietly underplaying his role to expose the irony of the movie’s form. Either could work and neither performance is bad—far from it!—but it serves as a proper microcosm for the film’s core problem. It wants to have its cake and eat it too.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars