Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

La La Land Review

LA LA LAND Review   01/08/2017

Two years ago, Damien Chazelle struck silver as writer-director of the highly regarded Whiplash; this year the 31-year old Auteur hopes to mine gold with his festival darling La La Land.  Whiplash was a heavy drama set in a jazz conservatory, centering on the abusive relationship between an instructor and a callow student drummer. There was music, yes, but one couldn't call Whiplash a musical. For La La Land, Chazelle goes all out on his dream production, enlisting his collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, to compose the score for a full-blown musical.  Yes folks your appreciation of La La Land will hinge on your level of love/tolerance for musical theater, but Chazelle builds in several fail-safes: the ever-charming Emma Stone's natural sweet optimism matches the tone the director aspires to, and former Disney-kid Ryan Gosling has found a role that's right in his wheelhouse.  Chazelle makes another wise choice: instead of having his characters suddenly break out in tunes that seem tacked onto their performances like rococo sconces, the music in La La Land builds organically out of the dialogue and the natural behavior of the characters. 

Few romantic stories begin with a young woman flipping off a young man who is passing her in anger in a Los Angeles traffic jam.  That's the first of several chance meetings between Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Gosling), a jazz pianist who hopes to own a jazz club one day.  Each subsequent encounter reveals more of their personalities to each other, deepening their mutual attraction; two people drawn to each other personally but whose careers, should one or both meet success, threaten to pull them apart.  As their relationship blooms along with a series of increasingly romantic song and dance duets, culminating in a (figuratively) heavenly number at Mt. Palomar Observatory, there doesn't seem to be any fear that professional success will pull them apart.  Despite their mutual affirmation, Mia meets rejection at every audition, and Sebastian is too much of a jazz traditionalist to evolve into a marketable style.  Well, we know where things go from here, don't we?

The plot of La La Land isn't terribly original, but it's very entertaining.  The music is wonderful--modern without being trendy, jazzy but accessible.  Linus Sandgren's cinematography, along with the set and art designs bring bright hues and excitement and infuses the modern era with Golden Age Hollywood style.  So we buy into it when one is about to perform and the other has promised to come but is held up and might not make it; we don't roll our eyes when one of them gets frustrated and wants to chuck it all and go home or when one one intends to sell out for success.  We buy it because it feels fresh, because the dialogue, the actors, the music, the approach, the vivid hues elicit young love and dreams that are not faded or jaded, because Chazelle has realized his dream and invited us in.

9 out of 10

FilmZ and Guy S. Malone, Researcher  


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