Winter season is upon us and that means its time to go to the movies. This is the part of the year when they pull out all the stops and get you ready for award season. You are going to see movies with lots and lots of A-listers putting on their big boy and big girl shoes and turn up their acting game to win a trophy. With the Golden Globes nominations released, it’s time to start doing research to get a sense of who is going to win and see some great films in the process. One of those films just happens to be La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone and directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). With the chemistry and charisma of both lead actors who also starred in Crazy, Stupid, Love together you can bet we are in for a great movie.
The story centers on Sebastian and Mia who are in L.A. to make their dreams come true. Sebastian is a jazz musician specifically on the keys while Mia is an barista/aspiring actress. We watch the both of them go after their dreams while falling in love with each other along the way. With their love blossoming before our very eyes nothing is that easy as they are forced to deal with the reality of how hard it is to be successful in the entertainment industry and the pressures of L.A. and in the background is a lot of singing and dancing. It reminded me a lot of The Artist (2014) with its big smiles and expressions and routines that takes advantage of the entire screen.
This film reminded me a lot of Joss Whedon’s original musical episode “Once more with feeling” from his T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
When I saw the trailer a couple of months ago, I assumed it was a romantic drama with a little bit of fantasy thrown in. Sort of in the same lane as 500 Days of Summer. Then as it got closer to the release date I found it was a full on musical. For me, as a fan of musicals, I was much more excited to check out an original musical that wasn’t based on a stage play or a movie.
Let me just say that the movie started off great. I loved the opening scene. Very upbeat and exciting. The opening number showed a very traditional song and dance you would expect from a musical with so much energy you can’t help but smile at how much fun was happening. The next few numbers were just like this. I was very impressed with the choreography and the camera work was superb doing most of these takes in one long shot. Lots of splash of color in the wardrobe and set piece to keep it upbeat and alive. This film reminded me a lot of Joss Whedon’s original musical episode “Once more with feeling” from his T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Even our two leads are exciting to watch through the film. Gosling brings his suave, swag, and smooth moves and demeanor while Stone bring her cheerful personality, reliability, and those quirky dance moves. Anyone who has seen Stone in Easy A knows she has what it takes to take the lead and keep our attention. The story was good too showcasing a nice boy meets girl story and also showing us how hard it is working in show business.
Los Angeles is the destination for this movie and I have never seen it so beautiful. Especially being in the city and recognizing some of those locations, La La Land lit up Los Angeles making the city look like it was drawn on a canvas as a painting. The music had a jazzy theme to it. The piano especially was featured in most of these numbers.
Unfortunately, this movie wasn’t great. I wanted it to be great. but it was just okay. From a musical point of view, some of the songs were catchy but you will notice that in the second act the songs sort of disappear and is replaced with a lot of piano and jazz numbers they simply dance to instead of sing to. When a number or two did come out they were pretty somber and kind of low in energy. Beautiful to look at but you could possibly lose yourself in your own head waiting for more upbeat numbers you enjoyed looking at in the beginning. I hope you are a big fan of Jazz. You are going to get lots of it throughout the film. I just wanted more musical numbers to keep things interesting. The songs and the music matched the mood of the story but it came at an unexpected time in the film when you were to believe things were going to be more warm than it turned out to be.
Our leads sing better than I ever could so I’m not going to critique their voices too much. I will mention one thing, it sounded like they were whispering their lines when it came to them singing. That was a little bit of a disappointment. I believe the movie ended great, it was a solid story. There were plenty of chuckles and stabs at L.A. life. So if you are a resident or use to live in L.A. you will catch some of these jabs the film makes on the city. For me, the music makes the movie and I didn’t run out of the theatre ready to buy the soundtrack to revisit moments I remember from the film, which is what I use to do when I see a great musical.
So keep in mind when you watch this movie, make sure you are okay with jazz music, a traditional musical visually with its choreography, and a little bit of a sad silence and sometimes dull moments in the middle. Damien Chazelle, you do have my attention. It seems we haven’t heard the last of you. With 7 nominations for a Golden Globe, I see the appeal why it will reach a big audience and in the end I do recommend this movie to be seen, but I have seen better musicals in my time. A good film just not great.