Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: La La Land

In an ambitious and effective opening sequence, heavy traffic stretches out for miles and miles with cars at bumper to bumper, drivers and passengers each lost in their own worlds, listeing to their own music, concerned and worried about their agenda for the day, each trying to get somewhere but not really going anywhere. Then the camera focuses on a lone female driver in a yellow dress, she breaks into song and exits the behicle in graceful movement, kicing in the air and twirling in her dress. 

The rest of the commuters then follow suit, singing and dancing out of their vehicles, singing and dancing on top of cars; it is a genuine, honest to goodness song and dance number in a feature film. As you are watching this, you will find yourself smiling and thinking 'if only all traffic jams can be so entertaining and God knows we see enough traffic in our everyday lives'. You will be in awe and you just know that you are in, for one hell of a show. 

Such is the premise which Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" brings to its audience and thankfully it delivers. 

After the grand traffic song and dance number we meet our two characters (Mia) Emma Stone an aspiring actress who works as a barista and serves coffee to famous actors on a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot in Hollywood. She rushes to auditions whenever her schedule allows it, having one coffee related accident probabbly botch an audition for her. Mia is one of those commuters in the traffic jam opening number but unlike the others who break in song and dance, she is too engrossed memorizing her lines for an audition that she does not notice the car in front of her move forward, much to the annoyance of the driver behind her, Sebastian (or Seb) played by Ryan Gosling who is learning piano pieces being played on cassette tapes in his car. Sebastian blares the horn at Mia, who then gives him the finger, and just like that, our two main characters have met. 

We then take turns following their daily lives as struggling artists, Mia as she goes from one audition to the next, desperate for any role-no matter what it is! 

Yes, 'Dangerous Minds' meets 'The OC' is a thing!

Sebastian, a jazz pianist on the other hand is a sentimental purist, an analog guy in a digital world, who when practicing the piano at home, uses a record player (and I totally get him, since I myself own a record player with a very humble vinyl collection definitely getting a copy of this OST on vinyl). 

Sebastian is determined to save jazz and hates having to play at demeaning gigs just to get by. 

The two cross paths which result to some hilarious exchanges and even if they don't know it yet (the audience already does) the have both already fallen each other. 

In beautiful sequences the two sing and dance across the screen, just like the old Hollywood Stars did back in the day-and it is beautiful. Its funny when you are engrossed to seeing them tap dancing and you would think that it was a period piece but then a phone rings and you are reminded that this is in contemporary L.A. 

Of course it can't be all song and dance as the film's main conflict grows, an ugly monster rearing its head and this time it is in the form of ambition, disguised as dreams-because love can only take so much. When Mia and Seb each have a shot at fulfilling their dreams  they risk losing each other.

With beautiful cinematogpraphy where the camera movements compliment the dance numbers to make you feel as if you, yourself were dancing as well. 

"La La Land" brings back the razzle dazzle of old Hollywood with tap dancers that just make you wnt to get a pair of tap shoes and dance! If just one person (no matter the age) decides to take up tap dancing or jazz-then I would be very happy. 

Among the songs in the film, there were two that were stand outs for me, "Another Day in the Sun" (the opening sequence, all shot in one take by the way, very "Birdman" like) and of course "City of Stars" -the rest were unfortunately not that memorable.

You have to remember of course that unlike their predecessors, Stone and Gosling are actors first and took lessons to be able to portray their characters, while they are both incredible actors, the singing and dancing are not particularly exceptional but I have to admire them for the passion and dedication that they put in their craft. Kudos! 

The film is ambitious for wanting to bring the old and the beautiful and I admire them for that. I was so engrossed in the film, that I didn't even notice its running time, of over 2 hours. + That last bittersweet 'what if' sequence?! Phew! It will bring me to tears whenever I think of it! 

9/10- an experince you shouldn't miss in the cinema-and not just any cinema but I suggest seeing it in the best one! The ones with great projection and sound! 

"La La Land" is now showing in cinemas. 

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