I issue you a challenge, dear reader: go see 'La La Land' and try to not fall in love with the magic, whimsy and truth. Even the most hardened musical hater will find themselves wanting to go back through a collection of golden age of Hollywood movie musicals. Put on your tap shoes, crack out the top hat and prepare to sway your way through what I believe is this year's most charming film. Let's be honest, after the rough year 2016 was, it's the film we all needed.
Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress living in LA. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a struggling jazz musician also living in LA. Who would have thought that these two would wind up struggling together? But with each other maybe the struggle isn't so hard, and with a little bit of Hollywood magic maybe the struggle doesn't have to be forever?
Full disclosure, I didn't know anything about 'La La Land' when I went into the screening. Let alone that it was a musical! I thought it was a charming nod to the bygone days of cinema when the title "Presented in CinemaScope" would appear.
Then everyone started singing.
This is about the time my smile went from small to utterly goofy and rarely wavered for the rest of the movie. I'm no stranger to the musical; frankly love them! Just now I'm readying myself for a trip to NYC for Christmas. But to be so pleasantly surprised by a musical is something I rarely feel. The music is just sublime, Justin Hurwitz has done an impeccable job of creating a somehow modern yet also timeless score to accompany a movie that I would describe with the exact same words. Trust me - you'll be humming long after you've left the cinema.
Speaking of timeless, I loved how the time period was always a little bit hazy. There were classic cars side by side with iPhones - and why not? It speaks to the genre that the story and the film could easily have fitted into 1950s Hollywood or in today's blockbuster climate. As bizarre as it might be to say, what give 'La La Land' even more charm is the grounding in reality it has. Sure, massive group choreography spontaneous dancing doesn't often happen in real life, but the type of relationships that happen in the film certainly do, and it's not always a happy ending.
The music is just sublime, Justin Hurwitz has done an impeccable job of creating a somehow modern yet also timeless score to accompany a movie that I would describe with the exact same words.
I only have two small faults to this film. They are so minor it doesn't make too much of a difference, but they are things I would have loved to see. The first of these is one or two more songs! They were just so good that I wanted more! Give me all the songs! The second is about the decisions about where they got Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone to put their voices. I understand it was character-driven, but I would have liked them to be put in places where their voices were a bit stronger. We know they can both sing, why not show us this? It would have just taken moving Gosling's part up just a little in his range, and letting Emma be a little less breathy and speak-singy and having more of a sense of control. Once again, I understand the character decisions as to where they were put, it's just something I would have liked to see! In no way does it detract from the absolute joy this film is to watch.
The more I think about it, the more I find myself having enjoyed 'La La Land'. From the big chorus numbers to the tap duets, it's all just a big slice of nostalgia pie. 2016 was saving the best for last, so why not grab yourself a piece of the pie and enjoy the most charming film of the year!