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Review: LA LA LAND

By Jose Jara


Go see “LA LA LAND”
By: Daniel Guzman

Let me begin my review of LA LA LAND  by saying, I am no critic. I wouldn’t want to offend any serious critics that make a living critiquing film and spend countless hours honing their craft as writers. In reality, I’m just your every day moviegoer who loves stories, whether good or bad. When I recommend a film, I often give it a go see based on the emotion that it created within me and how entertained I was by the overall story that I just finished viewing. I’m guilty of having biases and preferences in genres, actors, directors, but I’m definitely a garbage can of movie watching, in that I watch it all.

With that quick intro into my lack of movie reviewing pedigree skills, let me just say that I’ve never been a fan of musicals. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy listening music. I just don’t like being told a story for 2 hours in song form. As a I sat down to watch at the advance screening of LA LA LAND, I was excited that I was for once not having to see a half hour of previews followed by dancing popcorns and talking fountain drinks, given the fact that this is often skipped over during screenings. Unfortunately, as the screen came on, I began watching a commercial that looks like a flash mob stuck in a traffic jam in Los Angeles that breaks into song and dance. I’m watching this while asking myself, ” what major brand label is selling me something with a bunch of smiling dancing faces?” This was no commercial. This was LA LA LAND!

To my relief, though this story is compiled with plenty of song and dance sequences, there is plenty of good dialogue scenes that allow you to watch the characters Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) interact with each other without having to tap dance for us throughout the entire movie. A quick synopsis of the story without revealing too much: Sebastian is a talented jazz pianist who wants to revive the dying appreciation for jazz in this 21st century, while Mia is a struggling actress in Hollywood trying to find her big break. As the two of them end up serendipitously running into each other a couple times, a relationship begins to blossom. Eventually, they have to choose between their career dreams or their relationship.  I will leave you with that, not trying to spoil the fun of it.

Director Damien Chazelle does a nice job at giving this film a vintage vibe with the costume designs, music, dance, Hollywood parties and sets, while keeping the story at present day. I recently heard the director say in an interview that he wanted those who aren’t fans of musicals to become a fan of this one. Justin Hurwitz, the creator of the film’s music, does a wonderful job at giving the musical score its own unique character, filled with old movie nostalgia. The music is implanted deep in this story as a central character in the film.  This is Ryan Gosling’s and Emma Stone’s 3rd motion picture collaboration together.  Third times a charm between these two on-screen love birds. Throughout the film, Ryan and Emma had such natural on scene chemistry and were both just so much fun to watch as they danced, sang, and charmed our pants off. I was speaking to a good friend of mine who I often love talking film with, and he mentioned that the movie’s preview reminded him of the 2012 best picture Oscar winner, The Artist.  Thinking about his comment made me think of what made him see that by just watching the preview. There is the obvious ode to old Hollywood films that the preview sells, but the more poignant similarity that these two films have is heart. LA LA LAND  is a film with a lot of emotion registering about love and loss, passion for pursuing your dreams, and a flair for the days old.

 Gentlemen, this is most definitely a date night flick that your significant other will appreciate. If not for the cinematography and all the song and dance, you’ll appreciate the characters.  Ryan Gosling delivers a pure heartwarming, comedic personality, and Emma Stones is just so genuinely likeable in her role. You can see that they both put in a load of prep work to look as good as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were together. I had the privilege to enjoy this film with my wife. My wife has a ritual that if she truly enjoys a film, she immediately digs and researches online every fact or trivia on the making of the film, to which she did do after seeing this. I on the other hand, often do nothing after watching a film, but wait till someone eventually engages me about it in conversation. This time, I found myself searching YouTube for the musical score of the film, wanting to hear it once more before going to sleep. I mentioned before about the director wanting to make a fan of this film out of someone who doesn’t typically enjoy musicals. You got me!