LA LA LAND
BY THE COMMANDER
3½ (out of 4 Stars)
Director Damien Chazelle has written and directed a very entertaining film borrowing many ideas from earlier movies. His most recent film Whiplash was a powerful drama that yielded J.K. Simmons an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
This film builds on creative ideas from classic films such as West Side Story, Singing in the Rain and Casablanca to name a few. Add in Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers dance numbers and you've got a terrific film.
Once again, the plot is a love story. It's based on two noncompatible individuals. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a struggling jazz pianist and Mia (Emma Stone) an aspiring actress, two opposites who meet and fall in love. But reality rears its ugly head and their hopes of remaining together are that of La la land.
From the moment of the first musical number, I thought that this could have easily been a Broadway musical that was brought to the big screen. The way it was filmed, musical numbers choreographed, singing spotlighted silhouettes, sets and single shot edits brought the stage alive.
While I did have some problems with this film, specifically the original musical score by Justin Hurwitz, I found his music to be adequate but not inspiring. Musical numbers by John legend and popular music from the 80s definitely helped even the score.
The film is divided into five acts each being a season of the year starting with winter in Los Angeles. If you've ever been to Los Angeles every season looks exactly the same.
The relationship goes through peaks and valleys and ends up where you expect. However, director Chazelle turns the tables with a plot twist taken from 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life.
What I really liked about this movie was the editing. A lot of time (the rumor is over one year) was spent editing this film and it shows. From the single camera shot (no edit cuts) of a choreographed outdoor musical number to an actor's audition which turns into a top lighted soliloquy. These techniques are so reminiscent of many Broadway shows it was almost as if they were performing live in front of the theatrical audience.
Although small, J.K. Simmons puts in a wonderful and memorable performance. His scene stealing abilities are never forgotten. While they may not be at the caliber of singing and dancing as their predecessors, Gosling and Stone put in a wonderful performance.
I would recommend this film for anyone who loves the old movies and the great stories. If you're a fan of Broadway musicals this will also satisfy your needs. With only a $30 million budget and a 128 minute run time the film definitely brings home the bacon. Its worthy of consideration for an Oscar in multiple categories.