La La Land: A Review

I’ve just come back from my second time seeing the movie La La Land; apparently once was not enough.

The first time I saw this movie I was with my parents. I was sitting beside my dad and joking about how long into the movie it would take for my mom to fall asleep, when the lights faded out and the room went quiet but the crunch of popcorn and the crackle of candy wrappers. This was always my favourite part of movies; I was ready to be dazzled.

My eyes were fixed up at the screen in a lustful awe with hardly any memory of even blinking during the entire film. La La Land is one of those movies that sparks almost every hair off your skin and hits you right in the soul, not to mention the heart (Ryan Gosling- ugh).

Now, there are three elements of film that I value most: score (soundtrack), cinematography (framing, movement, transitions) and acting. Many movies are decently written with decent plot-lines; what I find impressive is the execution of these stories.

Let’s begin with the soundtrack. This seems fitting as La La Land is after all… a musical. Ah, the soundtrack: a fusion of sensuous jazz meets Disney-inspired blissful wonderland. Needless to say, Justin Hurwtiz is my new king. What I love about an original score is how it allows for a sense of harmony and cohesion throughout the film; we often hear familiar melodies reappearing throughout the film in various arrangements. With non-original soundtracks, you lose this sense of harmony and every song has a pre-established essence. Not only do these familiar melodies reappear throughout the movie, but they are performed through various forms and arrangements. I only picked up on this the second time I watched it, but City of Stars and Mia & Sebastian’s Melody carry through as forms of background music in several scenes, both reformed into either that polished jazz or fantastical wonderland. These melodies developed a great power of familiarity, which was an important tool for the story. Take for example Mia & Sebastian’s melody- Mia’s initial draw into the club, the reason she leaves the restaurant to go meet Seb, then the reason Seb leaves his photoshoot to race to her play, and at the very end to circle everything back to them. The melody is the sort of constant to her La La Land.

Next, the cinematography- absolutely genius; a sort of melody in itself. There were several one-take shots that were polished to magnificence. The first couple musical numbers in particular were creatively planned and flawlessly executed. Also, I hadn’t picked up on the clever transitions until the second time I watched it. There was this one shot of Ryan Gosling as he opens the door to his first band meeting and the camera smoothly circles around behind his head as he stands tall and still- that for some reason just seemed so powerful to me. “What an entrance,” I thought.

And the acting- no comments. Ryan gosling may very well be my favourite living actor. A very classy Emma Stone was quirky enough to be that relatable female role, without being a Zooey Deschanel cliché, (just to clarify – Zooey Deschanel is the OG of quirky female characters; it’s those who followed her that I deem clichés).

Every ounce of artistic spirit in my being became enlightened after walking out of this movie. I waltzed through the parking lot to our SUV, considerably disappointed that it wasn’t Sebastian’s convertible. I did, however, sport a cheesy smile that I didn’t even try to conceal and a newfound sense of inspiration glowing from my very core. I’m sure this film sparked a light in bubbling artists everywhere; dancers, singers, sax players, pianists, actresses, you name it. I can attest myself- the next day, I found myself twirling around the house in a fantastical daze. I did a ton of writing, as I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of now after having seen it again.

All in all, if you have the chance to see the dazzling showpiece on the big screens, please do. There’s a reason it got 14 oscar nominations and won 7 awards at the Golden Globes, setting the film at a new record of most awards won by a single film. Also, I just read that the director, Damien Chazelle, actually wrote this screenplay in 2010 and it’s taken this long to have it financed and come to life. Here’s to the ones who dream, I suppose.

Stay fanciful.

– Dose of Delight

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