Not a single person walked away from the latest Damian Chazelle film without a renewed ecstasy for their long forgotten dreams. From the opening sequence on a busy LA highway, to the dim jazz bars, to the delightful dance numbers by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, “La La Land” is a sure achievement for both critics and audiences.
Like the affairs of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gosling and Stone return to the screen in this lighthearted romance set against the starry skies and vibrant sunsets of modern day Hollywood. Sebastian is a struggling jazz pianist who longs to open a club. He is dedicated to keep the sound of pure-jazz alive but not without a few setbacks. He falls for Mia, an aspiring actress, working as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot.
Both Sebastian and Mia are escapists, enchanted by the magical zeal of Hollywood’s past. But the journey gets rocky when they have to balance their love for one another and their delayed dreams.
Writer-director, Damian Chazelle established himself in the 2014 Oscar-nominated film “Whiplash.” It’s clear that Mr. Chazelle is enamored by the golden age of jazz in its relation to modern society. The music of Justin Hurwitz will sweep audiences off their feet with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
“La La Land” is far more than a reprise of old Hollywood. It’s a love letter; a tribute to artists of all trades who long to make it big. The weighty themes of desire and rejection are paired with fantastical colors, stunning cinematography, and six original songs. The cinematographer, Linus Sandgren, shot the film in 35mm CinemaScope, as it was method in the 1950s and 1960s.
Being a fan of “Rebel Without a Cause,” I am thrilled by the scene where Sebastian and Mia ballroom dance in Griffith Observatory. It is a wordless segment lasting roughly five minutes where the couple glides among the stars. The use of silhouettes, chorography, and cinematography are all memorable tidbits, making “La La Land” high on the Oscars nomination list.
Another favorite scene was the epilogue, another wordless sequence taking place five years after Mia lands her big break in her acting career. Sebastian has also achieved success in his jazz club. The film loops the characters from their first encounter to the moment they finally meet again.
Less than two weeks since “La La Land” opened in select theaters, there is a great deal of talk about the 89th Oscars. The film has also been nominated for a number of Golden Globe Awards including Best Original Score, Best Song, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Picture for Comedy or Musical. I am hopeful that “La La Land” will sweep away many awards for its bold originality and unforgettable melodies.