After the credits for LA LA LAND start rolling, you feel like you’ve been dropped from above and just hit the ground. Yes, you’ve been floating for the last two hours in the most delightful, colorful haze you can surrender to, in what is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in theaters. La La Land is a stunning odyssey in a time of the year when we probably crave it (and need it) the most. Prepare to be swooned.
It’s fascinating that a movie this successfully ambitious and almost timeless was made by someone who is just 31 years old. Damien Chazelle‘s love for Jazz has already transpired in 2013’s Whiplash, but then its sequences treated it more like an obsessive disease than a melody. Here is not only the glue bonding two aspiring artists, but also something to be enjoyed, protected, danced and celebrated. This film, as his creator, is passionate about its themes and aesthetics, and oh boy! is it contagious. It’s hard to believe that one of the most antique film genre’s is yet one still to be mastered (until now) by current generations. If musicals are going to be this way from now on I beg them to please stay.
Here’s looking at you L.A. A mostly hectic city seems to magically stop for a second just so Chazelle can shoot it in all of its glory. Familiar places (at least to us angelenos) seem to glow under an almost delirious magical realism. Who needs CGI when you can find true wonder in everyday places? Even freeways get the loving treatment in one of the most gorgeous opening sequences I’ve seen in a while.
At the same time you can’t have this movie without Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. You can find both their names under the meaning of “Chemistry” in the Dictionary, and also “Charm”, “Multi-Talented” and “Hollywood Stars”. Remember this film is reminiscent of old school musicals and there are big shoes to fill (Chazelle and Goslyng bonded over mutual admiration of Gene Kelly). And both actors seem to be quite on their element, with Gosling even playing every piano playing scene himself, for which he had to learn how to play the instrument for months in preparation for the role.
La La left me Ga Ga. But it never came from a place of pretentious exuberance or frivolous flare. Chazelle cares about the material he is paying homage to. If you are (like yours truly) a sucker for old time Hollywood musicals you will adore this movie. If you aren’t, you can absolutely enjoy it too. There’s enough care to detail and talent involved that it feels like its own piece of movie magic. I don’t know if it was All That Jazz, or the reminiscence of a familiar tune played by Sam, but this film made me feel like I Ain’t Heard Nothing (or at least not enough) like this Yet.
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