La La Land

La La Land ★★★★★

On rare occasion, my post-movie experience is akin to running into a wall of feelings and reactions. Such is the case with La La Land — a movie that left me rigid, trying to decipher if I was happy or sad, electrified or exhausted, inspired or devastated. And it’s this medley of emotions that sets La La Land apart from other movies this year. I didn’t know what I felt, or how I was supposed to feel as the credits rolled — but I do know that La La Land is a movie like none other.

With the pairing of Whiplash and La La Land, Damien Chazelle has verifiably hit two home runs, back to back. Not to be mistaken, La La Land does allow room for a handful of nitpicks — but the film goes so far above and beyond in so many significant ways, and it is so very different from anything else released in recent memory, the flaws just dissipate into the background.

The story is simple, and fluidly delivered through a lens of warmth and honesty. While there is significant narrative thrust, the movie is not beholden to the conventions of storytelling. Likewise, the movie is not strictly interested in delivering reality as audiences have come to expect. Instead, the movie progresses in a comforting haze, a dreamlike two hours that are at both times detached from reality and simultaneously profoundly true.

Behind the camera, Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren curate a constant stream of clever camerawork, dynamic visuals, and dazzling colors. The visual ideas behind La La Land are the most stunning I’ve seen this year, never satisfied with the status quo and always breaking the mold of expectations.

To describe La La Land in one word would be an unthinkable disservice — but a fair pick for that one word would be “charming”. The movie is thoroughly delightful from start to finish, and never is this more evident than in the film’s songs. At the crux of the film’s third act, Emma Stone performs a song that excellently encapsulates the message of the story — making “The Fools Who Dream” a perfect, emotionally charged, penultimate bow.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have cultivated a chemistry over the years, and their shared screen time soars. Stone is the standout, giving a performance that is sure to rocket her into the fast-track for an Oscar. She brings just the right amount of everything to the role of Mia. Gosling, shaky singing aside, gives an equally compelling performance as Sebastian. An actor of Gosling’s caliber is necessary to portray the experience but youthful energy of Sebastian.

For a movie that left me speechless, I’ve said more than enough about La La Land. While the film is a visual and stylistic triumph, its themes of dream chasing and commitment to art never get lost in the wonderful shuffle. I had a great many feelings competing with one another by the end of this film. I can’t (and for the foreseeable future, won’t) successfully articulate my thoughts and feelings on La La Land, because the movie is truly an out-of-body experience. Damien Chazelle might just be a genius and he has, yet again, brought so many sensations to the surface of his movie. La La Land is perfectly imperfect, and the most tremendous cinema experience of the year.

“It's conflict and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting!” 10/10

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