There was something magical about movie musicals during the Golden age of film. Those big, bombastic dance numbers, the romantic moments between the two handsome leads, and the glorious, lush music all came together to create illusions unparalleled in entertainment.
“La La Land” is a throwback to those classic films of the past, but with modern sensibility and a contemporary story. Ryan Gosling (“Sebastian”) is a frustrated jazz artist who years to open his own club someday. He meets “Mia” (Emma Stone), a struggling actress, and much to his chagrin she pursues him until he falls for her.
I could watch these two all day long. Stone has such an every-girl charm, an accessibility about her, but with a movie star aura. She is delightful here, flirting with Gosling until he has no other choice but to pursue her back. Gosling, who learned to play the piano sequences for the film so there’d be no need for CGI or a hand double, is every bit as charming as Stone. Despite the frustrated artists aggression he shows, the audience can’t help but root for him. Or them.
They are definitely a romantic couple that people can embrace.
The real star of this film, though, is the music. It’s melodic, hummable, and well performed. From jazz licks to blues-rock with a subtle dose of musical theatre inspired stylings thrown in, I’ve already added the soundtrack to my Apple Music library. My favorite number was the catchy, concert number from John Legend and band.
Mandy Moore’s choreography is simple, classic. And it feels as natural as it can, given the genre of film this is. (You know how many times in musicals people start to sing and it can sometimes feel jarring? Not here. They’ve worked in understated awkward glances, impressive lighting elements, and it all feels like it all belongs.)
The costumes, the landscapes, and colors all pop off the screen. The California locale helps accentuate the action with its dreaminess; Los Angeles is a place where dreams live and breathe. We feel it, too.
I have thought long and hard, looking for something to criticize about this one. But I cannot find one single thing wrong with it. It’s flawless. It’s a joy, a triumph, and it gives me hope that movie musicals can be written for our time. I hope we see more of them soon and I hope they are all this good.
Director(s): Damien Chazelle Writer(s): Damien Chazelle Notable Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend
Kirk Sheppard has been involved in professional wrestling since 2000. He has worked behind the scenes in multiple capacities as well as ring announcing, managing, refereeing, and having the occasional match. He can be seen every weekend appearing on live events for the Northern Wrestling Federation in the Greater Cincinnati area. Kirk is also a playwright, amateur magician, theme park enthusiast, musician, photographer, teacher, trainer, mentor, and counselor. His first full-length play was workshopped and produced last August in Newport, KY. Tweet him at @kirksheppard