La La Land (2016)

They worship everything and they value nothing.

In general, I am not especially attracted to the musical genre.  This could be due in part to a lack of film musicals being released in recent years.  However, it is more likely that I simply struggle to get into the atmosphere of musicals.  The spontaneous dive into a choreographed number seems to pull me away from the plot instead of reinforcing it.  Chazelle has created a musical drama that pays homage to traditional musicals, but does not stick to their format in his new film, La La Land.

In La La Land, we find ourselves in a world that teeters between drama and musical.  The constant jazz soundtrack maintains a higher resting point than a typical drama, which allows the progression into musical numbers seem more natural.  For instance, rather than quickly breaking out into song and dance as in a traditional musical sequence, the characters in La La Land transition fairly naturally from casual conversation into a tap dance number.  The avoidance, on Chazelle’s part, of exaggerated musical numbers creates a story with more verisimilitude than a typical musical.

The heavily jazz influenced soundtrack is not surprising coming from Chazelle, considering his last movie Whiplash.  To paraphrase a line from the film, “Jazz is an expression of life, it is in the moment and ever changing.”  The music in the film encapsulates this with tremendous accuracy.

La La Land is Chazelle’s billet doux to the classical era of musicals.  The viewer is immersed in a world of traditional musical sets, yet the film doesn’t imitate the structure of classical musicals.  These traditional sets that appear throughout the film add to the nostalgia and romanticism that is at the core of this story’s drive. The love story crafted by Chazelle is not just a tale of love and loss, but an ode to life and the driving force of love and passion.

‘It’s not to stay stuck in tradition, but to innovate and create
something new.  This is the only way to keep it alive.’

La La Land does more than just put on a good show with irresistible toe tapping songs by Justin Hurwitz.  It is easy to fall in love, but staying in love is the true feat.  The film challenges the viewer to live life both in reality and in “la la land”.  You have to get lost in order to find your way and La La Land succeeds in the expression of this journey.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Cinematography: Linus Sandgren

Written by: Damien Chazelle

Score by: Justin Hurwitz

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Runtime: 2h 8m

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical

Distributed by: Summit Entertainment


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