Damien Chazzelle's La La Land is a beautiful, inspired film. It is a vibrant spark of creativity in an award season filled with gloomy contenders. I must admit that this one caught me completely off guard. Musicals are not my cup of tea. La La Land will win over even the most ardent song and dance haters. The love story between two struggling Los Angeles artists is enchanting filmmaking. It will make your spirit soar. La La Land is an absolute gem and certainly vies for the best film of 2016.
The story takes place throughout the seasons in Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling stars as Sebastian, a brilliant jazz pianist who reveres the classics. Emma Stone co-stars as Mia, a struggling actress bouncing from audition to audition. He can't keep a job because of his refusal to play cheesy music. She works as a barista on the Warner Brothers studio lot; surrounded by the movies, but still so far away. Multiple chance encounters lead to a full blown romance. But does love help you find your dream or get in the way?
You know you're in for something special from the opening frame of La La Land. It grabs you like a hook and never let's go. Chazzelle's script is superb. It's pure, honest, and heartfelt. It turns into stardust when mixed with Justin Hurwitz's incredible score. The film has a central song, City of Stars; that is sung in different ways during several scenes. This constant refrain is a measure of Sebastian and Mia's blossoming love. These moments are full of wonder and infectious. Romance is so hard to capture in an artistic way. Chazelle and Hurwitz have achieved greatness here.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling will have you swooning. They have an intense, fiery chemistry that sizzles on screen. We've seen a bit of this from them as a couple previously in Crazy, Stupid, Love. They take that connection into the stratosphere with La La Land. One, they can sing and dance. Their duets are magical. Two, they pull off sincerity. In the aw shucks moments, where a film like this can get silly, it doesn't. The leads are just so good together.
Damien Chazelle has come out of the gate like a rocket. Whiplash was my favorite film of 2014. La La Land is an absolutely stellar second film. He is a highly imaginative writer and director. La La Land is a fantasy. It has mesmerizing scenes where the characters sing and dance amongst all manner of backdrops. The brilliance in his execution is to not overdo it. If you keep going to the well, then something becomes rote. But if you do it just the right amount of times, you have constant surprise. Chazelle has already mastered this concept.
La La Land will put a bounce in your step, a smile on your face, and love in your heart. Anyone who sees this film will be much happier for it. I saw the film twice before writing this review. I was so blown away the first time, I had to see it again and gauge if my initial reaction was true. Arriving from LionsGate, La La Land was even better the second time around.