La La Land opens with a reference to Cinemascope and closes with a reference to Panavision. Everything in between is a love story to the musicals of the past filmed in Cinemascope and Panavision.
No adjective for La La Land will do except delightful. With singing, dancing, big dreams, and true love on which to feast, the film has everything. Nostalgia for Hollywood’s bygone musical greatness is honey to other movie’s vinegary reality.
The opening scene of a gridlocked traffic jam on an LA highway set the tone. Slowly people get out of their cars and begin to sing and dance. The choreography included parkour over the cars with skaters and bike riders tricking around the cars. It was a full out dance number and an announcement about what was to come.
Ryan Gosling is Sebastion, an aspiring jazz club owner. Emma Stone is Mia, an aspiring actress. Others such as Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Tom Everett Scott, John Legend and a raft of talented musicians and dancers populate this story about Sebastion and Mia falling in love and achieving success.
Sebastion and Mia sing, dance, even tap dance, with aplomb. They meet cute, they fall in love, they fight, they come together again. They will love each other forever. It’s delightful, I tell you, delightful. And a little sad.
The way light was used to isolate, spotlight and create fantasy was an ode to the past. In the moments when the emotions need to be expressed in song, the color saturation and the light emphasize the fantasy. The props, the sets, the costumes all brought back memories from the golden age of musicals.
Damien Chazelle wrote and directed. He’s a relatively young man. If La La Land is an example of his capabilities, then my money is on him as a director to watch for the next 30 years or so.
This is a movie I will probably watch every time I find it anywhere. It’s as irresistible as watching The Way We Were or Casablanca or Chicago or Singing in the Rain (which La La Land references) one more time. Just one more time.
Will La La Land win the Oscar for Best Picture this year? There are some excellent movies – serious, powerful, more inclusive movies – in contention for the Best Picture Oscar this year. La La Land reminds us the golden age of the musical was white and straight.
There are many non-white characters in La La Land but they are around the edges. Most have no spoken lines. The characters we are expected to identify with and cherish are white and straight. I love the film, but I love it with the full knowledge that I’m loving an anachronism.