I finally got around to watching La La Land yesterday to decide if I thought that the 7 Golden Globes and outstanding praise that it has been receiving is well merited. It is a musical starring Emma Stone as Mia, an aspiring actress who works at a coffee shop in Warner Brothers Studios, and Ryan Gosling as Sebastian, a jazz pianist who dreams of starting his own jazz club in the LA area. I don’t typically get into movies of this genre but this film surprised me in a lot of ways so I am excited to get into it.
The opening number of this movie was simply not what I needed to get this movie started. It really made me think it was intended for High School Musical or something and it left me wondering if the rest of the movie would be the same way. I don’t know if it’s something that you all will care about or even notice, but I remember worrying if I had bitten off a little more than I could chew with this movie while the opening number was playing out.
Another thing I want to point out has to do with our lead couple of actors. I had never heard Ryan Gosling or Emma Stone sing before, and I think it’s because neither of them are really singers. That being said, even though their voices were both pretty underwhelming, it still seemed to work out pretty well. The movie didn’t demand amazing vocals to draw you in and make you a part of each scene.
La La Land does a great job exhibiting the “show, don’t tell” style of storytelling. However, there were a few individual points throughout the course of the plot in which I really didn’t have any idea what was going on. Everything made sense to me in the end but it is a bit frustrating to be engaged in the movie and not sure if what you are watching is real life or just one of the character’s fantasies.
Like I said, this movie surprised me in a lot of ways. For one, I loved how even though it is labeled a musical, it didn’t feel the need to express every pointless line in a singing voice. Most of the story was actually told by the way the musical score complemented what was happening in the movie rather than the actual dialogue of each number. There were really only 6 or 7 musical big musical numbers with a lot of singing, the rest used the background score to accent the emotion of what was going on in front of you. I found that to be a very unique and refreshing way of telling a story. I also just loved the general vibe that La La Land gave off. It was clearly set in modern day Los Angeles, but for some reason it often gave off a 70s or 80s style feel to it. Also, the acting and the story itself had a very playful and genuine vibe which really just made it that much more enjoyable for me.
Something definitely needs to be said about the lead performances in this film. I suppose I already talked about their singing but there was so much more to their characters than their singing voices. Emma Stone was very good in this movie at letting us really experience the full spectrum of emotions with her. I personally don’t think this was her single best performance of her career but one could definitely make the argument for it. As good as her performance was, Ryan Gosling’s was better. I think there is no question that this is the best performance of his career to this point. Like Mia, Sebastian also begins the movie with nothing really going for him. He experiences every bit of emotion that she experiences but somehow Gosling allows you to feel everything that his character is feeling, all the while his character remains relatively laid back and unwavering in terms of his outward appearance throughout.
There is so much about the relationship between Sebastian and Mia that I really don’t want to give away. All I really want to say is, this ain’t your typical Ryan Gosling love story folks. This movie is definitely all about the relationship of the two lead characters, but I love how it chose to break the mold of today’s sappy chick flick in the process. Also, the chemistry between Stone and Gosling seemed very authentic to me, which is vital to making the emotion transferrable to the audience. I will admit that my experience with the romance genre is limited so other people may disagree with my statements about their chemistry and I am completely ok with that.
It really got my attention when I saw some critics have called La La Land “The Best Musical of All-Time”. After seeing it, I’m not ready to give it that prestigious of a title but it definitely deserves all the hype it has been receiving. It is the first movie that I have seen in a while where I really started to feel an attachment to the characters. Also, the fact that I just got back from LA last week and recognized some of the sights in the movie as places that I got visit while I was there (mostly Griffith Observatory) is probably another reason I am rating it as highly as I am.
On the surface, La La Land may seem like just a movie for a guy to take his girlfriend to but it is really so much more than that. I think this film will set a precedent for many successful musicals to come.