La La Land

December 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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I’m not sure if I can explain why I liked a movie that I should have so thoroughly disliked. I have never been a fan of musicals. Everything about them irritates me; they look and feel completely phony. People do not break into choreographed dance numbers in real life. I have always said that the only musicals I have like are those that are dark (“Moulin Rouge”) or where the singing can fit naturally into the story (“Once”). However, neither is true here and I still really liked this film. It is both a loving homage and a winking parody of classic mid-century musicals. In bold, brighter-than-real-life primary colors, the audience is taken on a whirlwind tour of both classic and modern hot spots in LA (at least one of the meanings of the LA in “La La Land,” I’m sure). Even Ryan Gosling’s character, Sebastian, is an ode to another era; his clothing, his car, even his name are reminiscent of an earlier time. Judging by director Damien Chazelle’s (“Whiplash”) two feature films thus far, he appears to love and have a deep ambivalence about the arts. Here an actor and a musician struggle with loving each other and loving their art and loving/hating the city that makes all those things possible. And it’s that complexity that gives this film more depth than one might expect from a Hollywood musical. To Chazelle’s great credit, he has made a film that can be both boldly optimistic and bittersweet at the same time. Both Gosling and Emma Stone were superb as the two leads. They were capable of bringing gravity to difficult scenes and then suddenly bursting weightlessly into the air in beautifully choreographed dance numbers. And I have to say that the opening sequence was stunning to watch, set the perfect tone for the film and must have been a logistical nightmare. So, I loved this film. I genuinely loved this film, despite myself. And, perhaps after the year that we have had, Americans are ready for a strong dose of bright colors, singing and hope.

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