Movie Review: La La Land

La La Land (2016)

Rated PG-13: For Mild Language

Genre/s: Comedy, Drama, Musical, Romance

Released on December 9, 2016 (US Release Date; Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Summit Entertainment, Black Label Media, TIK Films, Impostor Pictures, Gilbert Films, and Marc Platt Productions

Writer and Director: Damien Chazelle

  • Ryan Gosling as Sebastian Wilder
  • Emma Stone as Mia Dolan

True love? Ha, don't make me laugh. Ever since the first trailer was released, my movie-addicted side was already itching, since it was directed by the gentleman who gave us Whiplash. In addition, it is a musical, and who does not love a good musical movie? During the recent Academy Awards ceremony, after earning a huge set of major accolades from several categories (Wow, Hollywood really does love movies about Hollywood), it was this movie that was revealed to be the winner of the title of "Best Picture" for this year. And yes this movie did deserve this ... oh wait. My bad. It turns out Moonlight won. Oops. But still, this movie was still decent in its own right. Welcome to Dateline Movies, and join us as we review La La Land. Here's to the fools who dream!


What is the movie about?

Welcome to the "City of Stars", contemporary Los Angeles, where the music is lively, and the people have ambitions in the world of performing arts. Everyone here has dreams, but sometimes, it takes a certain moment in time, or a certain someone, for us to truly realize what we really want in our lives.

Mia Dolan, played by Stone, is just your average waitress working in a major movie production studio with aspirations to become an actress, while Sebastian Wilder, played by Gosling (Both Gosling and Stone appeared in two other films before, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Gangster Squad) is just your average jazz-obsessed musician trying to find the right type of work for him to pursue his passion.

Together, they will form a romantic relationship that will stood the test of time, but amidst the abundance of disappointments and shortcomings when it comes to passion, can their love surpass all odds? Will they love each other forever, even when the music stops playing?

Acting = (5/5)

If you have watched all of the two movies that both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone worked on, with all three movies coincidentally featuring them always as couples, then you know you are in for some seriously sweet, romantic moments, as well as tear-jerking moments, and these are things you get in this movie. Seriously, their chemistry is so believable, and it is flawless.

For me, both of the two leads are really just spectacular in each of their respective ways, but if I were to choose which among them did marginally, slightly better, I would have to go with Emma Stone, since her delivery as Mia Dolan is the one I find most easily relatable.

With Stone's easygoing nature, we get to see a rather depressing portrait of a lady caught under the shadow of another equally ambitious fellow, and with effortless charm, we are reminded that every failure is just a stepping stone. Her vocal work while singing, especially during the song "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", also known as my favorite song in the entire soundtrack, is mind-blowing and beautiful.

Of course, that is not to say that Ryan Gosling did not do a fantastic job. With his traditional deep-voiced and suave bravado, Gosling quickly embodies the soul of a man caught in the world that has long since forgotten jazz, and sets on a quest to reinvigorate interest in the classic music genre. He really knows how to charm an audience with just a simple smile and nod. I find it kind of funny that Gosling was supposed to be the Beast in the latest Beauty and the Beast remake, while Emma Watson was supposed to play Mia, but left for the aforementioned movie. Gosling might actually make a good Beast, given that he has a pretty smooth singing, slightly unsteady, but not that it matters, voice here.

Also, for a fairly short amount of screen time, John Legend, also an executive producer for the movie, is good as Keith. What a nice way to make use of that credit than make an appearance in the flick itself, am I right?

In addition, did anyone spot the J.K. Simmons (The Accountant) cameo in the movie? I guess you could say that he fired Sebastian from the club he manages, after playing different jazz melodies instead of Christmas tunes, is because it was "not his tempo", or even because he was either "rushing" or "dragging".

Direction and Quality = (5/5)

This movie is nominated for the Best Picture category for a reason. Well, make that more than a reason. The way Chazelle, plus with the most eye-popping, non-CGI cinematography imaginable by Linus Sandgren, and editing by Tom Cross, captures each passing moment of the story in living, breathing color is just a sight to behold. I guess this movies just gives a "motion picture" a new meaning, huh? Some of my most favorite scenes, namely because of the gorgeous artistic lighting and coloring, include Sebastian and Mia's fantasy-induced trip to the Griffith Observatory, which includes a full set of stars on the background because this movie would not have had a song titled "City of Stars" without a sky full of stars, and Mia's alternate ending hallucination in the ending. These two key scenes will literally sweep you into the bittersweet world of La La Land.

And what good musical motion picture would there be without carefully timed and incredibly sharp dance sequences? This movie had some pretty darn good ones, in case I have not mentioned it yet. I believe the scene that contained the best choreography would have to be the introductory dance number, "Another Day of Sun", wherein we see random bystanders caught in your day-to-day Los Angeles traffic jam in a highway, on a warm sunny day. It immediately sets-up the bright and colorful mood the movie is aiming for. Sebastian and Mia's dance by the moonlight after their party, which showcases the song "A Lovely Night" , as well as the tap-dancing prowess of our two leads, comes close as second.

But do you want to know what is, for me, the overall highlight of the movie? Well, if it is not obvious yet, it is the music. The catchy, upbeat, uplifting songs that not only make lip-sync out of nowhere at the mere opening beats, but also, with its astonishingly true-to-heart lyrical genius, inspire you upon closer inspection. The songs are the cherries to the metaphorical cake. Songs such as "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", "City of Stars", and so much more will leave you breathless, and probably, like me, constantly listening to the soundtrack via your Spotify accounts.

Story, Dialogue and Flow = (4/5)

Sigh. I sure do wish my love life could just be as splendid as that GIF shows.

Um, I mean ... Are you tired of the usual romantic flick formula? Is it too predictable for your tastes? Too much of the expected endings? Too simplistic? Too annoyed at the done-to-death "will they, won't they" tropes? Fear not, because La La Land manages to overcome at least some of the cliches, such as the "love triangle" and the "love at first sight", that you are sick of, just like me. Then again, we really cannot remove much of the elements that make up all of the other famous works of romance, because by removing those key components, then we are fast approaching a different genre.

For starters, similar to one of my other favorite movie of all time, 500 Days of Summer, which is also much more depressing than this movie, the movie injects some new bits and pieces to the formula. Some of the changes include non-physical sources of attraction for both characters, and the addition of slight social commentary with regards to the themes of "old versus new" through Sebastian's main conflict, and "dreams versus love", which is the prime concept revolving the movie. You do not need to read an entire thesis for you to explore various thought-provoking themes, and in this flick's case, it explores both topics through relatable, realistically down-to-Earth situations as presented in the story, such as Mia's attempts at getting accepted in auditions, and Sebastian's musically fueled passion.

I especially like, in a twisted sense, the argument between Sebastian and Mia later on in the movie, because while it is expected that they would fight soon, the topic of their fight is not on par with the basic causes such as "She/He loves me more than you", or "I just like you as a friend", or "You cheated on me!", but it does fall a little bit down on the second example.
But, the only downside for the entire movie is that, by the time the romance starts to bloom, you might be bombarded with some exposition heavy lines, especially with regards to Mia's backstory and her motivations on her pursuit of an acting career. They are not that long, but for people who prefer more of the action-esque theatricality, you might need to be a bit patient.

However, despite that, as mentioned before, some of the dialogues mentioned by our two main characters can really, in a way, inspire you in your life, and in some part, think once or twice about your current relationship. This becomes much more evident during the fight that will eventually lead to the disintegration of Sebastian and Mia's relationship, wherein Mia thinks that Sebastian has sold-out his dream of opening a club, in favor of a career with his former classmate, Keith, played by John Legend (Soul Men), whereas Sebastian claims that Mia only liked him because she once had a more promising career than he did.

Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (5/5) +1

By the time the argument breaks out, and by that part, Mom was already fast asleep after finding the slower parts tiresome, which I sort-of agree on, it all seemed like it was going to be yet another happily ever after for Sebastian and Mia. Sebastian finally has a promising career with his fusion jazz band, which Mia accepts, whilst Mia is about to rise to stardom with an upcoming movie that she is going to star in, despite her one-woman play being a failure.

But all of a sudden ... boom! Fast forward five years later, Mia has a child now, and a different husband? Okay, I expected this ending because about half my friends at school already spoiled the ending to me, but still, even if I know how it ends, there is this one bit that I was not aware of that makes the ending effective and moving.

Blah, blah, blah ... another traffic jam ... blah, blah, blah ... stop-over, but where exactly? Sebastian's club, with the sign designed by Mia hanging outside, of all the places in Los Angeles. As they glance at each other for awhile, and Sebastian proceeds to perform, causing Mia to fantasize what could have been had they continued on five years from then.

Remember when I said that Mia's alternate ending fantasy was one of my favorite scenes? Cross that, my favorite scene, to be more exact, aside from Mia's finally successful audition. This is why, and I did say that I loved the cinematography. However, what I love more about this sequence is the message that it carries, which is, in the end, reminding us that we should never overlook the things that really matter to us, and not push them all away in favor of ambitions, because the things, and especially people, that matter most to you, are the ones that make you happy.

Overall, watching this movie was a rewarding experience. Sure it is slow in some parts, given that it is a romantic movie, but like the poetic mastermind Chazelle is behind the camera, you will be spellbound by the wonderful message, aside from the awesome musical segments, that the movie is giving you, and like Whiplash, it will inspire you.

Overall Evaluation = (5/5)

With lovable chemistry and performances from both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, as well as Damien Chazelle's, heartfelt direction and Justin Herwitz top-notch compositions, this movie is a must see!

TOTAL = 25/25 (Masterpiece)

La La land, a beautifully shot and choreographed musical with a sweet romantic atmosphere, and emotional performances, will leave you singing your heart out, and dancing like there is no tomorrow.

They do not make movies this good that much these days, but I am not gonna lie, at first, I had some mix feelings for the movie, but after digging deeper into the movie's inner workings, and of course, thanks in part to that wonderful sequence at the end, I was left amazed. It really is such a cinematic wonder to behold. It is okay La La Land cast and crew, even though you guys did not won the Best Picture award, the movie is still great! And with that comes the curtain call of our movie review of La La Land. Before leaving, please take the time to listen to three of my handpicked favorite songs from the movie. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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