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Movie Review: ‘La La Land’ is a Dazzling Dream of Musical Delights

Read our movie review of La La Land to get the full story on all the music and wonder:

La La Land opens in the busy traffic setting of Hollywood. It’s a typical depiction of the city’s constant gridlock, but this is a big cinematic musical. This is a world where drivers can get out of their cars and break into a massive song and dance number. Every citizen is a dancer, every car is a platform and every truck holds a band ready for any song to break out.

If you find yourself questioning why women would have tap shoes at the ready in their purses for any public dances they might be roped into, I can’t help you. If, however, you have an undying love for classic musicals with an old-fashioned movie romance, La La Land is a pure masterpiece that aims to please in more ways than one.

La La Land Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
A couple of dreamers take on Los Angeles.

It’s was easy enough to warm up to the romantic leads of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, both with big dreams in their hearts, unspoken dance moves in their feet and melodies in their pipes. Stone plays Mia, a barista struggling to become an actor in a town where pretty blondes with acting aspirations are a dime a dozen. Casting directors glaze over her auditions and Mia’s roommates offer little support. She seems to be alone in her wild dreams and love of old movies.

It isn’t until she is attracted to the piano melodies of Sebastian (Gosling) that she finds a similar dreamer with the same amount of passion. Sebastian desperately wants to keep jazz alive by achieving his dream of owning a historic jazz club where he can perform the music he wants rather than music he is hired to play. While Sebastian opens Mia’s mind to his wild world of underappreciated music, she additionally brings him into the magical world of movies. Both of them soon fall madly in love as much as they do with cinema and jazz. The movie itself is also a loving homage to such classic mediums with Mia decorating her room in old movie posters and Sebastian schooling the audience on the unique history of jazz greats.

 

When the two are not gabbing about their passions, they’re singing and dancing in the movie’s many lavishly staged numbers. Reality seems to take a back seat to their wonderment of each other as in a scene when they sneak into a planetarium and gravity appears to take a break. Every scene between these two is magical whether they’re chatting about the history of Hollywood, holding hands on a movie date or tap-dancing while walking to the car.

La La Land Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
No gravity needed for these dance numbers in ‘La La Land.’

But the movie is thankfully not a simple tale of colorful whimsy. Mia and Sebastian fall on hard times with following their dreams. Most of their aspirations don’t go according to plan despite the hope and encouragement they have for one another. The two grow distant and bitter about trying to follow their dreams, growing doubtful if they can succeed together. It’s a rough patch, but one that’s not as dower as one might expect and leaves the audience hoping these two will come through okay in the end. Or at least share another rousing duet of song and dance.

Related: Critics Go Gaga for ‘La La Land’ as Audiences Wait in the Wings

There isn’t a single scene that feels wasted with Damien Chazelle’s flawless direction. When the characters start dancing, Chazelle doesn’t shy away from showing us every move, often in unbroken shots which feels almost nostalgic for a modern musical. The opening scene on the freeway of people dancing on cars pulls out wide to let us see how far this dance number stretches into traffic. When Gosling and Stone share a dance amid an evening overlook of colorful Hollywood, it’s a sequence that rarely cuts away from their moves.

While they don’t exactly have the transcendent wow factor of Fred Astaire in their sequences, they certainly have the energy and spirit to keep the eyes glued on their every gesture. They may be a cute couple when sharing jabs or gushing about their dreams, but it’s their dancing that speak volumes about their relationship more than words or sex ever could.

Read more to get the rest of our La La Land movie review:


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