La La Land, directed by Oscar nominated screenwriter Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, Grand Piano), is a romantic musical lead by the young dreamers Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone). La La Land tells the story of how one must pursue their dream till they have accomplished it, no matter how many times one may want to give up due to the obstacles they must endure.
Mia, a talented actress trying to survive in Los Angeles, is seen repeatedly rejected by auditions. Sebastian, a jazz pianist, struggles to find a place that will appreciate his music. The movie begins with a long traffic jam on a Los Angeles highway when everyone from their cars begin to do an impressive sing and dance number on the highway. This is where we first meet Mia and Sebastian, and where they first meet each other.
As the movie progresses, they begin to repeatedly cross paths. At first, Mia and Sebastian are very irritable and annoyed with each other, but then after a movie date together to see Rebel Without A Cause, their love story begins. As Mia and Sebastian become closer, they become each other’s support to pursue their own dreams. One night at a local jazz club, Sebastian’s old friend Keith (John Legend) offers him a job to be a pianist in his band. Sebastian is hesitant of his offer, but Mia convinces him to take it. However, once Sebastian is in Keith’s band, he realizes that his band’s jazz music is too much like pop music, but Sebastian reluctantly stays in the band anyway. Now that Mia has written her own play and Sebastian is now in a successful band that will begin touring, their relationship begins to fall apart. Consequently, the two separate and go their own way.
Five years have passed, and Mia is now a famous actress, married, and has a child. One night, Mia and her husband stroll into a jazz club, and when they walk in, Mia realizes it is Sebastian’s club. Mia and her husband sit as Sebastian locks eyes with Mia before he plays the piano for the audience. Once he starts playing, Mia relives the past five years in her mind, but with Sebastian in the picture. In the end, both dreamers accomplished what they always wanted, but it came at the price of losing the love of their life.
La La Land starred the Oscar nominated actors Emma Stone (Birdman, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson, The Notebook) in what seems to be the most Oscar buzzed movie of 2016. Ryan Gosling’s acting was good and deserving of his Golden Globe nomination, but I was most impressed with his piano playing; it was nothing less than amazing. I always love an actor who will commit 110% to a role, and that is exactly what Gosling did. In order to play the role of Sebastian the jazz pianist, he spent three months learning how to play the piano.
Gosling’s role reminds me a lot of Miles Teller in Chazelle’s remarkable jazz drama Whiplash (2014) in which Teller spent a few months learning how to play the drums to play the role of Andrew Neyman. However, I am more impressed with Gosling because he did all of the piano in every scene of La La Land, unlike Teller who needed a drummer double a couple times for his role.
I foresee Gosling winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, due to the fact the roles of his competition were not as demanding as his. However, once Gosling is placed in the same category as Denzel Washington for his role in Fences, I believe Gosling won’t stand a chance against Denzel due to his beyond incredible performance.
On another note, Emma Stone’s gave one of the best performances of her career, and in my opinion, it trumped Gosling’s acting (aside from his piano playing). Her acting had much more passion and emotion than Gosling’s. I was most touched with her audition scene toward the end of the movie where she sings a beautiful song about the dreamers of the world. When her voice cracked with emotion and her eyes filled with tears, Stone earned her Golden Globe nomination, and will soon earn her her second Oscar nomination. For the Golden Globe category for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, I have so far only seen Stone’s performance and Meryl Streep’s performance in Florence Foster Jenkins; which I was very impressed with due to her quite unique singing performances throughout the movie. Therefore, I am rooting for either actress to take the Golden Globe. However, I do not foresee Stone winning the Oscar. That will be given to Natalie Portman for her performance in Jackie.
The screenplay of La La Land, written by the director Damien Chazelle, was without a doubt very well done. However, I was not as enamored by it like I was with Chazelle’s screenplay for Whiplash. When I saw Whiplash two years ago, my mouth was agape by the ending and by the whole movie itself; La La Land did not have that same effect with me.
However, I did love how the screenplay brought back the classic musical styles of Gene Kelly’s American in Paris (1951) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). I saw many tributes to Kelly in La La Land such as the styles of dancing done by Stone and Gosling, especially the scene at the beginning of the movie where they dance in (what seemed to be) tap shoes. Therefore, I do applaud Chazelle for reigniting this style of classical, 1950s Hollywood musical.
However, aside from the musical aspect of La La Land, I thought the movie was mainly what I call ‘fluff’; meaning predictable romance. Yes, even though it was meaningful because without the romance, Mia or Sebastian most likely wouldn’t have achieved their dreams, it just seemed like a fluffy, predictable screenplay that I have seen done several times in many other movies; it wasn’t remarkably unique like Whiplash was; that was a one of a kind screenplay. I do agree that it did deserve its Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay, however I am rooting for either Nocturnal Animals or Hell or High Water to win because these screenplays were one of a kind and fluff-free.
Overall, I give La La Land 3.5 stars out of 5. If you see no other Oscar movie this year, La La Land is the one to see, due to its popularity and its overwhelming amount of Oscar buzz. I reluctantly predict it will win Best Picture at the Oscars due to the Academy’s soft spot for musicals like La La Land. As I said in my Lion review, I find this disappointing as movies like Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, or Hell or High Water deserve the coveted award instead. No, none of these movies had extravagant dance numbers, fancy costumes, or singing. However Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, and Hell or High Water tell far greater and more unique stories of the incredible endurance and capability of the human spirit at its most darkest times, which is far superior than the fluff in La La Land.
Written by Alyssa Weinstein