After winning a record breaking seven Golden Globes, La La Land is still sweeping people off their feet.
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the modern musical is set in today’s Hollywood, but restores the beauty and romance of old fashioned Hollywood musicals. With Chazelle’s extraordinary passion for film, he conveys an emotional story of dreams, love and life, accentuated by the inspiring performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as they pull you in and leave you wanting more.
Stone plays Mia Dolan, a struggling actress who works as a barista on the Warner Brothers lot. She faces the cruelty of auditions where the casting directors yawn, play on their phones and even interrupt her. Despite her unsatisfying day job, she waits patiently to be discovered and to become a classic star.
Her counterpart Gosling plays Sebastian Wilder, a dedicated jazz musician who refuses to let classic jazz die. He dreams of opening his own jazz club; until then, though, he works as a restaurant musician, playing what he is told to perform. These two old-fashioned characters meet on a jammed freeway where they get off to a rocky start—both victims of modern road rage.
What follows is an opening number, complete with dancing on top of cars in the middle of a traffic-full Los Angeles freeway, which sets the tone of the whole film. This modern scene is a great example of the traditional musical corniness we all secretly love. It is this balance of youthfulness and joy—as shown throughout the film—that makes La La Land so unique for its genre.
When Mia and Sebastian meet for the second time at a party, the audience is treated to the charming number “A Lovely Night,” where both characters tease the other about never falling for each other. This scene starts simply, as the two sing a casual conversation, but eventually ends in a tap routine.
This fresh yet timeless choreography—which comes to us via the creative mind of seasoned choreographer Mandy Moore—continues to unravel the flirtatious story of these two artists. Moore’s use of props and her connection to the percussiveness of the music keeps viewers on the edge of their seat.
As expected, Mia and Sebastian end up falling for each other due to their shared passion for the past and to their encouragement of each other’s dreams. Their relationship is filled with lovable innocence as they relive old films and old jazz.
But as the two become more comfortable with each other, they each begin to become part of the modern world that surrounds them; slowly, they lose the clarity in their own dreams. Though they adamantly help each other through the good and the bad, the couple faces the reality of life when they must decide what they want more: love or success.
In Stone’s final number “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” she gives her most impressive performance yet. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s touching lyrics recognize and commend those who dream and those who love whole-heartedly despite facing hardship or loss. The song reminds Mia—and the artists in the audience—to value love and to remain passionate, even in the face of trouble.
As the film draws to a close, Mia and Sebastian’s final scene gives us a chance to imagine what our hearts may have wanted to see, despite what our minds already know. Chazelle’s brilliance doesn’t disappoint the audience from start to end. The film is a moving masterpiece with elements of humor, heartbreak and the creativity of song and dance.