I knew I was going to love La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s new film musical, but I wasn’t really ready for how it made me feel watching it in the theater today. Damien Chazelle blew me away with Whiplash, an intense movie about a jazz drummer which opened Sundance a few years ago, and garnered J. K. Simmons a Supporting Actor Oscar. The success of Whiplash let him make the musical movie he’d always dreamed of.
I went to see La La Land alone today because I. Could. Not. WAIT, but I will be dragging everyone I can to go see it on the big screen. I want to see it as many times as I possibly can. Critics have swooned, even Manohla Dargis wrote about how swept away she was watching it the second time.
I love movie musicals. I live and breathe them. I fell hard for Fred Astaire, adore Gene Kelly and the list goes on. Those films of the past had magic. Yes, they were earnest and wore their heart on their sleeve, but can anything convey like a song that heavenly feeling of falling in love? Musicals have fallen out of fashion in cynical Hollywood as of late. They are rare or you have to watch a Disney animated film to see one. I have turned to Indian films to get my musical fix.
Today, in the theater, Damien Chazelle gave me the most precious gift. He gave me a Hollywood musical, steeped in the traditions and with a love for Hollywood musicals of the past, and also fresh and adult and modern. The movie made me smile from the first frames as an LA traffic jam leads to people getting out of their cars to dance and sing.
Then we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, a struggling actress and Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian, a struggling Jazz piano player. They run into each other a few times and banter before this glorious spontaneous dance:
How gorgeous is that shot?! The sunset on the hills, her yellow dress and red hair. How they have those matching shoes.
There are bumps along the way, but one night they go to the Griffith Observatory after seeing Rebel With A Cause. And then they fall in love, and the music takes them up into the stars. I seriously started crying tears of joy at this. I didn’t just choke up. Tears were running down my face I was so happy.
I loved all the camera tricks that Chazelle uses. He’s studied the masters and gone even a step further. This is a film where Damien Chazelle takes the every day and makes it part of a musical number. We meet Mia’s roommates and a blow dryer gives Mia a moment worthy of a Bollywood number:
People don’t just walk down the street to a party – they do this:
I was only hoping for a few big musical dance numbers, but this a full fledged musical film with songs and dances throughout from start to finish. The music is all original by Justin Hurwitz who also provided the score for Whiplash. Ryan Gosling’s character is a jazz musician who is always composing and working on his music, so it makes sense in the film for moments like this one:
This is hands down my favorite film of the year. It’s about a guy and a gal falling in love and struggling to make their dreams come true. Maybe it doesn’t have the weight of Manchester by the Sea, or the important issues of a film like Moonlight. But I cried more than once — for joy and for the beauty of it all. That final sequence just left me again in tears it was so perfect. So beautiful. So bittersweet. This is not a saccharine sappy film.
Chazelle fought hard to get this cast. He had to really convince Emma Stone to make the leap and she didn’t make it easy. Ryan Gosling took piano lessons for months so that he could convincingly play the piano in the film without editing cheats. Gosling and Stone have shown in films like Crazy, Stupid Love that they have that X factor chemistry between them. This film was almost cast with Miles Teller and Emma Watson. Thank God Stone and Gosling became available — Emma Stone is likely to win an Oscar nomination for this film.
La La Land is romance at its best. Damien Chazelle has captured magic in bottle. I plan to partake again and again.