La La Land

La La Land ★★★★½

La La Land is a miracle. Director Damien Chazelle, after launching himself to the forefront of studio attention with the powerhouse Whiplash, was finally able to secure funding for his latest film- a love letter to classic studio musicals of the 40's and by extension, a continuation of his championing of jazz that he was so passionate for in his last film. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone bubble as the leads, a pair of Astaire/Rogers-type romantics whose inevitable constant run-ins lead to a whirlwind love story led by a number of brilliant song and dance routines. A dazzling list of original songs, composed by Justin Hurwitz, radiate with shining originality like nothing I've seen before. Imagine all the maddening vehemence that was in Whiplash and condense it into musical numbers. That's the rush of emotions that comes to mind during many of the extravagant numbers.

Despite all its cinematic romantics, there's a subtle tone of melancholy that slowly creeps its way into the frames. La La Land, in addition to tributing a plethora of classic musicals, also deconstructs them and forces its characters to face the harsh wintery reality. Seasons change as a means of showcasing the aging process in this Hollywood style fantasy, and the musical overtones serve as a perfect kind of escapism from the depressing reality that is so often hidden from the show business lifestyle.

La La Land's plot seems like a basic enough romance simply glued together by intermittent musical numbers, but this formula is exactly the same kind of structure embraced by similar romantic musicals that it tributes such as Singin' in the Rain and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Its gorgeously vivid color palette transports the audience back to its mid 20th century atmospheric styles in one of the most diabolical schemes of manipulation ever conceived by a director. The bright and cheery feeling that all of these promotional posters and trailers give off will leave you gasping for air before the end of this film, because when Chazelle's romance is forced to face the strictest winds of reality, that's when the most emotional moments come forth and smash you into a million pieces.

La La Land, just as Chazelle had intended, gives me hope for the future of jazz and the musical genre. I would love to see a decent resurgence of cinematic musicals, with Damien and his CinemaScope cameras at the forefront. Perhaps they shouldn't be as streamlined to follow the same song-and-dance-followed-by-plot style that La La Land so closely knits to, but there's a tremendous amount of potential out there. La La Land is one of the best musicals in years, and a profound triumph that hopefully should herald a resuscitation of a long lost art form.

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