La La Land (2016 USA, d. Damien Chazelle, 128 minutes)
by Noah Damron
There is so much to say about La La Land and yet, also very little. La La Land is simply a flat-out masterpiece. This is a flawless film that will speak to everyone.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land is an homage to classic musicals of the 50’s and 60’s while still feeling fresh, new and inventive. Mostly using long one-take tracking shots during the musical numbers, the camera completely disappears and Chazelle transports us to a dreamers vision of LA.
Stars Ryan Gosling (Drive, 2011) and Emma Stone (Birdman, 2014) give the best performances of their careers as two dreamers who fall for each other in the city of stars. Gosling shines dramatically and musically, while the biggest surprise to me was Emma Stone. Not only is this the best performance of her career, but it’s a performance that is worthy of an Oscar and I’m willing to put money on the fact that she wins; she’s that good. One scene in particular had me compelled to tears. In a somber musical number towards the third act, Chazelle puts the camera right on Stone’s face and she delivers a number that not only sounds wonderful, but is acted to perfection. The scene is shot in one take and you feel all the more captivated because of it.
Being that this is a musical, there aren’t as many songs as one would think. In the two hour runtime, there were maybe ten songs, but they’re used to further the plot and each feels important. Not to mention they are all catchy, poignant and brilliantly staged. After the spectacular opening scene, the audience in my theater applauded like they were actually seeing a play on Broadway. My favorite songs include “Someone in the Crowd” and “City of Stars”.
La La Land is a bold, beautiful and stunning film unlike any thing that’s come out in recent years. It works as a moving love story, an inspirational tale about chasing your dreams and as a flat-out musical. Don’t wait for it to come out on blu-ray or on cable, see it on the big screen the way it was intended.