Damien Chazelle released one of my favourite movies ever three years ago: Whiplash. Knowing how meticulously this director worked on that first film of his, I knew I was going to watch and love his next project, the recently premiered La La Land. Therefore, I decided to do a media blackout. No reviews, no trailers, no interviews. All I wanted to know before watching the film was the title. And today was the day.
Mia and Sebastian struggle to make a living out of their passions, acting and jazz respectively, in the exuberant musical La La Land. They take a leap of faith together trying to pursue their dreams, without knowing what the cost could be in both personal and professional aspects of their lives.
That’s the centre of the film, the fact that our expectations are not always achieved, but the beauty of chasing them is worth the fight. Yes, there is a love story that plays a prominent role in the movie, but fortunately, in order to achieve a more transcending message, it avoids the cliches most romantic movies seem to have as a guideline. Once again Chazelle takes the chance to educate the audience with his ideas, praising a more artful approach to music that jazz represents.
It may sound sad or underwhelming, but trust me, this is the most joyful film to hit theatres in quite some time. It’s packed with funny moments, full of uplifting choreography and a really upbeat vibe to it that had me smiling for the two hours it lasts. My cheeks even hurt a little by the end of the movie…
Every element in this movie is so perfect, it’s hard to pick what to mention first. Let’s make the easy choice and talk about the brilliant actors that star as the protagonists, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. We already knew this is a duo of excellent actors, due to films like Birdman and Drive, but in many ways, they both achieve to outdo themselves once again. Stone gives the most emotional performance of her career to date, with a huge range of tones of which every single one is nothing short of stunning. Gosling’s role differs greatly from his latest performances, yet he nails every line, every expression and every move he delivers.
Both of them are flawless, but more importantly, they collaboration is incredible too. The chemistry among them is some of the best we’ve seen on the big screen in recent years, they have a unique charisma to themselves that is a joy to watch. Watching how their relationship evolves is almost magical.
The script they work with is really good too, as all the lines seem to be carefully written to fit the characters and situations to perfection. It’s clever, witty and heartfelt, and above all, it’s aware of the tone it must have at all times, as not a single word feels out of place or forced.
As a musical, the songs of this film are a crucial part of the experience, of course, and I was very glad to hear some beautifully written compositions. The score by Justin Hurwitz is great, and the lyrics by Pasek and Paul are heartfelt, touching and all in all jaw-dropping. For the sake of highlighting one, the song from one of Mia’s auditions is absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t take it off my head for hours after I left the theatre! Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem.
Even better, unlike in most musical movies, songs do not feel out of place or forced, as there is always a progression that leads into the singing or dancing (or both!) in a natural way. During the first act there is a scene (the one shown in the header image of this post) in which the protagonists tap dance that does this remarkably well. Stone and Gosling aren’t great dancers, but they sure had a lot of fun while filming, and that shows, it is a lot of fun to watch them. It’s a musical that will be enjoyed even by those who hate musicals.
Direction is god damn amazing. From long takes to a clever use of colours and lights to fit the mood and convey emotions, there isn’t a single average-looking scene. La La Land truly is one of the most incredibly directed films in recent years. From beginning to end, it is eye-candy at its finest, making great use of cinematography to add something extra to each moment.
Obviously without entering spoiler territory, let me tell you this: there is a moment in the epilogue so original, nice, and moving, that it will be part of cinema history. In a few years from now, others will try to imitate that great moment in the final minutes, but they will hardly even come close. It works so beautifully that my friends and I jumped on our seats due to how touching it was.
La La Land is a film about love. But not the kind of love we are used to in movies. It’s about the love its director feels towards music and film-making. It’s about the love we all feel towards our dreams and ambitions, and about how that love makes us fight hard to achieve them. The film is a huge ambition on itself, and radiates love in all directions. Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. 10/10