La La Land

La La Land ★★★★½

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that injects a new life into a dying genre and changes everything. Whenever the film industry ran out of ideas or continued churning the same formulaic stuff for far too long, there always emerged a fresh breed of filmmakers who took it upon themselves to bring the necessary change and, in the process, heralded a new era of motion pictures.

2016 will no doubt go down as the year in which horror reigned supreme after ages but one also can't forget the dream of an up-n-coming filmmaker who wished to make an original contemporary musical, and made it happen with such effectiveness that it ultimately resurrected a genre that had long been dismissed as part of a bygone era. That dreamer's name is Damien Chazelle and his now-realised-dream is his latest film, La La Land.

Set in Los Angeles, the story of La La Land follows the lives of an aspiring actress who works as a barista between auditions and a jazz pianist who manages to scrape by playing in small gigs. A few encounters between the two result in them falling in love with each other but when success begins to mount in their professional endeavours, the dreams they have managed to keep alive in each other all this time through love & mutual support begins to fall apart, and threatens their relationship.

Written & directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land opens with a richly coloured & gorgeously choreographed song, shot entirely in a single unbroken take, and then follows it up by introducing our protagonists to both the viewers & each other. Chazelle’s kinetic direction retains all the zest & passion that was evident in his last feature but also exhibits more confidence in his own abilities as a storyteller, and what he has skilfully crafted here is something that’s as nostalgic as it is new.

The screenplay is no slouch either, for the narrative follows a seasonal pattern, starting with winter that focuses on the professional stasis of our characters, and takes it from there as we see their relationship blossom as the story progresses until the harsh realities of life take over. Unlike Whiplash, La La Land is much calmer & more willing to celebrate the lovely moments as they come along although beneath the surface, both films do share similarities in themes & characterisation.

The technical aspects are expertly executed, and only assist in improving & enhancing the overall experience. Production design team successfully impart a nostalgic feeling to the contemporary locations of Los Angeles. Cinematography makes ingenious use of camera as numerous segments & musical numbers are filmed in one continuous take with constant adjustment of lighting & set pieces in the background. Editing unfolds its 128 minutes storyline at an apt pace, opting for montages at times while letting the plot simmer when the occasion calls for it.

Soundtrack becomes all the more essential in a musical but Justin Hurwitz more than lives up to the challenge of composing both the score & songs that are as memorable & catchy as they are relevant to the plot. Every musical number only assists in developing the characters’ arcs. All the songs & dance segments radiate an immense sense of joy & an intoxicating feeling, which is then all the more uplifted by its first-rate choreography & exquisite photography. Plus, it features so many instant-classic moments that it’s really difficult to choose a favourite.

Coming to the performances, La La Land features a perfect lead in Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone with John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt & J.K. Simmons in supporting roles. Few will dispute the fact that Gosling & Stone make up for an ideal Hollywood couple, for their on-screen chemistry is so natural, effortless & convincing that it really makes it easy for the audience to see & imagine them as a couple and invest in their relationship. It is a terrific casting and the outstanding performances these talented actors deliver, both individually & as a duo, truly elevates an already awe-inspiring feature to an even higher level.

On an overall scale, La La Land is this season’s most dazzling movie experience, and is a musical masterpiece for the ages. Bursting with passion, overflowing with emotions & intimately capturing the magic of cinema in all its glory, it is an irresistible, inescapable & infatuating rhapsody that’s brought to life with incredible restraint & precision artistry, and promises its viewers a toe-tapping journey that they will cherish for a long time. To sum it up, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land is an utter fantasy-turned-reality that asks its audience to dream more urgently, live more fervently & love more deeply. In short, they really don’t make films like this anymore. Delightfully recommended.

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