Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wheeler), Emma Stone (Mia Dolan), John Legend (Keith), Rosemarie DeWitt (Laura Wheeler), JK Simmons (Bill)
Running time: 128minutes
After his critically acclaimed film Whiplash, writer-director Damien Chazelle continues to prove he is an elite film maker. While his second feature film also relies heavily on music, Chazelle has shown growth. Whiplash focused on the negatives and darkness of following your passion and negative reinforcement. While I consider Whiplash a masterpiece, I believe that La La Land does a better job of showing the experience as a roller coaster experiencing both highs and lows. This film also does a better job explaining why our protagonists are passionate and why they keep following their dreams despite repeated failure. The characters are perfectly constructed so that when there is tension, not does it only feel natural, but both characters have a legitimate argument and it is difficult to choose sides.
I think the story is nearly flawless, but Chazelle’s directing brings the film down slightly. For an inexperienced director, his second feature film, he takes too many home run swings. For example, the planetarium scene appears a little corny at times, yet at others completely beautiful. I love the contrast in the film as it perfectly used bright colors but also fades to black to create emphasis. Another problem was that the film ran a little long so the opening sequence could have been trimmed down a bit because it did not feature our two main characters. While I thought the opening scene was nice, it feels like the only scene that could be cur because the rest was so perfect and essential to the story.
As for the performances, the film almost solely relies on Stone and Gosling who completely deliver. Stone is amazing in the film as her character has to project many emotions. Throughout the film she has to be optimistic, sympathetic, jealous, enamored, dejected, arrogant, and guilty. She nails every single shift in character and is rightly the favorite for best actress. Her singing is good, not great. She is not a singer and the audience knows that, but she sings well enough to surprise the audience and convince she can sing. Not exceptional but it works. Gosling, on the other hand, appears to have really struggled with the singing. It is clear that he is not a singer and while it isn’t cringe worthy it definitely hurts the film. HOWEVER, I will gladly take Gosling’s singer because in the acting scenes he is exceptional. Gosling explains why the people in LA are following their dreams, though unlike the others he does not rely on others validation. He knows what he wants until his lack of finances catch up to him.
This film is exceptional as it has great music, choreography and visuals. However, the best part of the film is how it captures the struggles and sacrifices people have to go through to chase their dreams. I loved this film but I didn’t think it was quite perfect.
I give La La Land a