Review: La La Land

Having seen Damien Chazelle’s La La Land multiple times now, I think I am finally ready to put my thoughts to paper… er, whatever you want to call this. For those that don’t know, La La Land was a film that had procured a huge following months before its actual Christmas release date. I, as well as my distinguished colleague, Nick, were able to participate in this preemptive “hype train” by viewing a screening of the film at the Austin Film Festival back in October. We have mentioned the film in multiple episodes of our podcast, so be sure to give those a listen if you want to hear another voice besides my own (by why would you want to do that?).

So, here’s a quick rundown of Damien Chazelle’s rise to stardom. In 2014, Chazelle directed his first major motion picture called Whiplash. This film followed the story of a young aspiring jazz drummer (played by Miles Teller; yeah, that guy that plays Mr. Fantastic in that god-awful Fant4stic) who suffered under the tyrannical rule of his evil instructor (played by J.K. Simmons, an amazingly talented actor who is, sadly, mostly known for his role as the Farmer’s Insurance guy…). In short, Whiplash was a really good film that showcased two underused and underappreciated actors and was pretty well directed and written by Chazelle. And… that about covers it. No, seriously, these are Chazelle’s only two movies so far.

Okay fine, he wrote the script for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which I reviewed early last year and gave an overall score of 8/10; which, if you’ve been keeping track, is really good for my scoring system (a total of 4 films that I have reviewed for 2016 have received an 8 or higher). BUT, if you want to drag his full writing experience into the conversation, then I feel the need to direct your attention to 2013’s The Last Exorcism Part II; which… I’ll let you deduce from the title of that film how I feel about it.

Anyway, let’s get back on track here. There’s no use in stalling any longer in my introduction, many of you probably already know how I feel about this movie based on what I’ve said in our podcasts. If you don’t, then why the hell are you not listening to our podcasts, ya loser? I thought we were friends.

Story: 8.2/10

One of the reasons I usually dislike musicals is because of their tendency to have overly-sappy stories. La La Land is – I think – aware of this stereotype, and does a lot to make sure that people like me stay interested in the plot. But to those of you that enjoy those sappy love stories (…but why??), have no fear! La La Land is still a film that you will be able to enjoy, I promise.

The plot focuses on two aspiring artists living in LA that have about run down to their last threads of funds, patience, and motivation to chase their dream… Oh God, I can feel myself getting anxious just thinking about it! Why did I like this movie??

Focus. Okay. So, when it seems like they’re both ready to give up on their dreams in a crowded place that still makes them feel alone, they manage to find each other, and give each other the strength to continue their pursuit. See? There’s the sappy part for ya.

All in all, the story is very well executed. In the hands of a lesser writer/director though, this story could have been a disastrous wreck.

Acting: 8.8/10

Everyone’s really good. Emma Stone is one of my favorite younger actresses, and Ryan Gosling plays a very Ryan Gosling type character. As far as singing is concerned: Emma Stone’s singing voice surprised me, and Ryan Gosling’s did not. I’ll let you figure out what I mean by that.

Visuals: 9.5/10

SO MUCH COLOR!!! Seriously, show me a movie with more vibrant colors (that isn’t animated) than this and I will be very surprised. Then the amazing use of color combined with Chazelle’s great directing style and also the excellent choreography of the music/dance numbers, and you’ve got a recipe for a visual spectacle like you wouldn’t believe. I want to say that this film is on par with Scorsese’s Silence as far as quality of directing, but the two films are so very different from each other that it’s hard to compare them.

Music: 8.3/10

Another problem I usually have with musicals is simply that… they usually don’t feature music that I would normally listen to; therefore, it makes it hard for me to really become invested in the songs. However, Justin Hurwitz’s score and the original songs for this film are just beautiful and a TON of fun. There is also a mid-film lecture on Jazz that is brilliant. So, come to this film prepared to take notes, as there will be a quiz at the end.

X-Factor: 8.2, Self-Awareness

This movie pokes fun at itself. There’s a scene where Emma and Ryan are talking about a play she has written, but really, they are talking about the film itself.

Did I really appreciate this aspect of the film so much to give it a 8.2? No; I said in a podcast episode that I would give La La Land a certain score, so I’m really just stalling and hoping that you might have skipped ahead to the overall score.

Overall: 8.6/10

La La Land is very likely my favorite musical of all time. I fully expect that it will be a favorite at the Academy Awards later this month… though, the last time I said something like this in a review, it ended up not getting a single nomination in the categories I specified… so, I may have just jinxed it. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen La La Land yet, I highly recommend going to see it in a theater (if that’s still possible), or finding some other means of watching it. It’s a terrific film that’s sure to have something for everyone.

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