La La Land
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J. K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Ton Everett Scott, Meagen Fay and Damon Gupton
Director/Scriptwriter: Damien Chazelle
Composer: Justin Hurwitz
Cinematographer: Linus Sandgren
Rating: PG 13 for themed material
Running Length: 129 Minutes
Longing for an old Hollywood musical? Wishing that between horror, science fiction, war and animated films, there was a hit of the fox-trot type of music? Look no further, movie fan, here comes “La La Land.” Despite the title, director/scriptwriter Damien Chazelle has put together a love story of two people on their way up the star ladder, and they take the audience with them. Well, who to cast in this story? Here comes Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) as the jazz pianist and Emma Stone (Mia) as the actress, with singer John Legend as the head of a jazz band. The stage is set, everyone, and with music by Justin Hurwitz, away we go.
This film begins with a Cinemascope notice on screen as the picture widens and the color (Technicolor, of course) makes everything bright. We enter the world of Mia and Sebastian. They meet when her car breaks down and she has to walk, stopping in at a small jazz cafe in time to hear Sebastian play jazz instead of the music he should, and he gets fired by owner Bill (J. K. Simmons.) Mia works at a coffee shop. Time passes and at a party, she notices Sebastian again and they go to their cars, acting as though they don't like each other, but really do. Eventually, Sebastian finds Mia and they start to date, with some humor involved. One time, they end up at the Griffin Observatory which gives the audience a song and dance of “Planetarium.” Time passes, and they are a couple, but he wants to have his own jazz band and she wants to be an actress. Down this winding road, will they endure or not? The film goes along about 2/3 of the way well, and the last 1/3 droops a bit, but is picked at the end. So you have all of this love story and, with lush settings, dance sequences and a sly look at Hollywood auditions.
As you watch “La La Land,” you may wonder why Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were selected as the stars. Stone’s character goes from awkward to confident and this Emma Stone does well with her facial expressions, especially during an audition scene. It grows on you. Gosling’s character is confident all the way through, and the actor really is a musician. The two stars do their own singing and they aren't the absolute best in the world, but they are satisfactory. This is a world of music and a reminder of the Hollywood past with a stylish Rita Hayworth dance and Gene Kelly dancing on anything.
“La La Land’s” supporting cast, including J. K. Simmons (“Whiplash” and Damien Chazelle directed that film, too) and Rosemary DeWitt as Laura, Sebastian’s sister have their moments, too. But it is the music and the “will they-won't they” theme that carries one along.
“La La Land” has been collecting awards that will probably lead to Oscar nominations. It isn't just music and singing and dancing, but the love between two people with different talents, who want to rise to the top with their talent. One could name about every third Hollywood couple in this category, which is why it may hit home for many. Music can make you or break you and it is a narrow and lonely road, sometimes, but when the fans find you, it is worth it...or so they say.
Copyright 2016 Marie Asner