This is an all new, original musical from director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) that is surprisingly low on melodrama while full of vibrancy, beautiful tunes, outstanding set pieces and a stunning sense of realism for a movie where the characters bust out singing. It’s the best “original” movie musical ever made.
The story follows wannabe actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz composer Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they try to make it in crazy Los Angeles. They meet, they don’t like each other much at first, but then they fall in love, which provides Chazelle and his performers ample opportunities for musical numbers that surprise at every turn. In what will go down as one of the year’s greatest scenes, the film opens on an L.A. traffic jam that evolves into a full blown dance number featuring many extras and top notch editing and camera work that make the whole thing look like one shot.
In a year when a lot of big blockbusters swung and missed, this relatively low budget venture delivers some of 2016’s best money shots. This solidifies Ryan Gosling as one of the best actors of his generation. He can wow you with insightful indies (Blue Valentine, Drive) and carry big budget blockbusters (the upcoming Blade Runner sequel … let’s hope it’s good). Now, with La La Land, he takes his game to a new level. He proves he can pretty much do anything when it comes to movie characters. He can sing with the best of them, he’s definitely no slouch when it comes to dancing and, by God, he sure can play the piano after a few months of intensive training for the movie (Those aren’t stunt hands playing the keys … those are Gosling’s).
Just like that, Gosling is a full bodied star of the musical genre. Emma Stone is a mind-blowing revelation. Stone doesn’t just make her mark with a beautiful voice and expert footwork; she embodies the character with the honest and almost tragic drive to “make it” in the business.