La La Land

La La Land ★★★★

I’ll always love you

La La Land is such a dazzling, dynamite film that touches me very deeply because I can relate to these two dreamers (but then anyone who has a big dream can definitely relate). It's a film that pulsates with life and energy from start to finish, striking a nice balance between arthouse sensibilities and entertainment value.

The opening sequence on a freeway ramp in LA where they sing the catchy “Another Day in the Sun” has got to be one of the best scenes of the year. The fact that it was shot in long take just makes it even more impressive (I’m a sucker for long takes). I knew from that point on that I was going to see something very special and raw, like characters bursting into songs in a spontaneous fashion. And I wasn’t proved wrong.

While I wish there had been more scenes where they come en masse and sing a big number together (we got "Someone in the Crowd" but still), there’s no doubt that Chazelle has crafted a spellbinding fairy tale that lifts us off the ground from the get go. Although it knowingly harks back to classic Hollywood musicals and bristles with nostalgia, La La Land still feels fresh and original. “It’s conflict, it’s compromise!”, to borrow Sebastian’s words. This is definitely a rewarding cinematic experience.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make a great onscreen couple. The film relies on their charm as much as Chazelle’s brilliant direction. The story revolves around them, and you need performers who can carry the film with ease. I have to give Stone some credit for making her performance look effortless and real. She wasn’t required to do any heavy lifting here and I don’t think it’s an Oscar-winning performance, but she’s great overall. And I'm amazed by Gosling's impressive piano skills.

I’m still conflicted about the Roman Holiday-ish ending, which is made all the more bittersweet and poignant by Chazelle’s use of montage. But I also found it emotionally manipulative. I can’t go on complaining without giving spoilers away. But let's just say the ending jumps ahead five years. And a lot of things have happened during the relatively short span of time. It would've been more satisfying for me if Chazelle tells us a bit more why they end up the way they do. This is where I think the simplicity of La La Land hurts the film a bit. But oh boy did the last shots of them staring at each other move me!

2016 has been a horrific year so far, and La La Land somehow feels like an antidote to that. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is our next Oscar Best Picture winner.

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