By Tessie Ward, January 24 2017 —
La La Land takes all of the optimism and hope that 2016 lacked and puts it into a film. Directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land tells the story of two people who fall in love in modern-day Los Angeles. The film brims with youth and possibility but doesn’t shy away from realism. The balance of reckless hope and real struggle is expertly executed in a way that grounds the rousing, floaty musical.
The film shows those with their eyes set on the future the sometimes soul-crushing reality they can face in a stunning visual and musically-diverse way.
Throughout the film, Mia and Sebastian’s relationship is tense and beautiful. Chazelle develops both characters with stories and lives that are separate and distinct from each other. That’s part of the brilliance of La La Land — while many critics and audience members tote the nostalgic tropes of the film, it breaks the gendered mould of its classic predecessors.
The music is fun, heartbreaking and acts as its own character. Every musical number shapes itself to the film’s storytelling in a way that is never jarring or forced. The choreography flows naturally with the music. The musical format harkens back to classic American films but reinvents them in an original story.
The city of Los Angeles lives and breathes in this film. It could not have been set in any other city and the filmmakers weave the setting into every aspect of the story. Someone outside of the fast-
paced entertainment world can treat La La Land like an introduction to the city, its people and what it’s like to pursue art in a city that is saturated with young talent.
Light and colour are carefully selected to evoke feeling in the viewer and they are as effective as they are breathtaking. The direction is also flawless, with no scene feeling too long, too short or unnecessary. The film is tight, clean and engrossing with every frame.
Chazelle is bringing back jazz whether the audience wants it or not. Coupled with his 2014 hit Whiplash, he uses musicality and passion to show audiences a new side of jazz. The film doesn’t simply make you want to look a song up on Spotify — it makes you want to go to a jazz bar and really live it.
In the end, the film succeeds in inspiring its audience to go out and pursue their dreams. La La Land takes the pessimism of 2016 and offers a guiding light through music, dance and a connection to something as real and necessary as chasing an impossible dream. For those with their hearts set on their dreams, the film provides a realistic view of what it’s like to fail and hopefully succeed.