I am not a fan of the musical genre, I had never watched a musical and I wasn’t very inclined to the idea of a musical either, but when I watched La La Land, I realized the reason the genre exists. I realized what the audience is meant to feel while watching a musical and how the liberty of breaking into a song or dance helps express some emotions and situations much better than a dialogue or a facial expression ever can.
La La Land begins with one of the most captivating sequences I’ve ever seen: a long single-shot song right in the center of a highway in Los Angeles, setting the mood for what the movie is going to be like. The color, the music, the celebration, the ambition, and the bittersweet tone all in one song. Then, the movie unfolds in a smoothly executed combination of the film-making of musical era with a contemporary setting. You are introduced to the two main characters and their lives, their passions, and their dreams. You travel their journey over an year’s time as they meet and fall in love, you see them go through ups and downs in their careers and their relationship. The critical win for writer and director Damien Chazelle is that the viewer can resonate with the characters deeply. You’ve experienced failures like theirs, you’ve had to make compromises and choices they are having to make, all of which makes you care for the characters and their dreams. This relatable story is buttressed by extremely talented actors Ryan Gosling (who must have definitely gone through rigorous piano training) and especially, Emma Stone. The songs and dances have great timing and are mostly used to give the viewer a peek inside the characters’ minds. In spite of being a musical, there is a life-like feeling throughout the movie, mostly because of the realistic events that transpire in the lives of the protagonists, and the way they react to it. Even the ending is very natural and leaves you with a bittersweet feeling. The most amazing strength of the movie, in my opinion (I wouldn’t say its an unbiased one), is the superb cinematography by Linus Sandgren. The soft colors are essential to capture the feeling and long smooth shots following the protagonists’ emotions make you feel like a character among them.
The movie does feel like its dragging at some points with the musical numbers, especially during a song in an observatory. The lack of any visual effects adds true beauty to most of the outdoor scenes, but the movie sure could benefit from a little visual effects work in one of the dance numbers where the characters are dancing among stars in space. Having said that, I must mention that the way this scene is executed gives it a feel of old Hollywood movies, which might have been the point.
La La Land is a very sweet movie that resonates with most people and to me personally, it felt like an eye-opener that a genre I am so averse to can also give me such a great experience. There is a lot to appreciate in La La Land, but if I were to pick the ones I liked the most, I’d say watch it for Damien Chazelle’s masterful writing and direction, Linus Sandgren’s sleek cinematography and Emma Stone’s excellent performance. I will rate it 8.5/10.