By Emily Kochanski
With a record-breaking seven Golden Globe wins and 14 Oscar nominations, director Damien Chazelle’s lyrical, toe-tapping romantic drama “La La Land” starts the new year on a high note. The film stars Ryan Gosling and 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award winner Emma Stone.
“La La Land” tells the story of Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling), an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz pianist who meet and fall in love in modern day Hollywood and encourage each other to pursue their respective dreams. While Mia floats back and forth between her job as a barista and countless auditions with unfortunate results, Sebastian attempts to raise the funds needed to open his own nightclub where his beloved jazz can be preserved. Ultimately, the two are forced to decide which is more important: their ambitions or each other.
Following in the footsteps of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “An American in Paris,” “La La Land” is a vibrant and whimsical, yet startlingly simple musical masterpiece. Though it is set in 2016, the film pays homage to the golden age of Hollywood and movie musicals with an upbeat and jazzy retro feel. At its heart, “La La Land” is a powerful message about preserving the beauty of the past. As the film and music industry become more modern, the beloved tunes and cinematic gems of yesteryear are being quickly forgotten.
Both Stone and Gosling deliver impactful and unforgettable performances. As seen in previous films, such as “Crazy Stupid Love,” the duo’s on-screen chemistry is undeniable. The end of Mia and Sebastian’s love story comes as quite a shock and will leave audiences heartbroken. Unlike the melodious love stories of Hollywood’s golden age, “La La Land” ends on an unexpected, more realistic note and sends viewers home with an ache in their heart and sadness deep in their bones.
On a happier note, Chazelle’s second full-length feature enchants its audience with bright and stunning visuals and, of course, a moving soundtrack and score. As expected, “La La Land” is packed with a slew of original ditties, including the Oscar-nominated “City of Stars” and “Start a Fire,” performed by Grammy-winning artist John Legend who also stars in the film. Although the piano melody entitled “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” is positively haunting and Emma Stone’s performance of “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” is tear-jerking, it is the film’s catchy opening number, “Another Day of Sun,” that viewers will have stuck in their heads long after the end credits roll.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, “La La Land” makes the perfect date night flick. Die hard musical fans will be dying to don a pair of black and white oxford shoes and burst into song in the middle of traffic. “La La Land” lives on in the hearts and minds of its audience long after the last few melancholy notes of Sebastian’s melody have faded away.