If you’re a dreamer caught up in a world of your own imagination, “La La Land” might just be the film for you.
In his follow-up to the 2014 Indie hit “Whiplash”, “La La Land” writer and director Damien Chazelle puts the Hollywood dream on full display through a combination of music, choreographed dance numbers and the oftentimes demoralizing reality that breaking into Hollywood isn’t easy.
Chazelle’s narrative follows the intertwining lives of Sebastian, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, and Mia, played by Emma Stone. Sebastian is a down-on-his-luck jazz musician who admittedly drives five miles out of his way for a cup of coffee because it is outside the building where he wants to open his own jazz club. Mia is a small- town Nevada girl working as a barista on the Warner Bros. lot, taking any audition she can get and hoping each one will lead to her big break on the big screen.
If you’re thinking you’ve seen this Gosling/Stone love story before, you’re right, you have. The two shared the screen together in the 2011 comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and the 2013 mob film, “Gangster Squad”. However, this third effort stands alone and cannot even be in the same conversation as the previous two.
The two veteran actors have undeniable chemistry on the screen together. Their voices and dance movements are always in sync yet complementary of the other as they display these numbers in the starry landscape of the Griffith Observatory, at Hermosa Beach’s Lighthouse Café and downtown Los Angeles’ Angel’s Flight Railway.
Chazelle writes the story in a way that highlights his two stars’ talents on the screen. Academy Award Winner J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt and John Legend star in supporting roles that only add to the complexity of Sebastian and Mia’s characters. They each provide moments of subtle humor and help illuminate the growing tension between love and fame.
As the narrative continues to wind along the bluffs of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, so does the inevitability of collision between Sebastian and Mia’s love story and their own personal success.
“La La Land” is not perfect from a filmmaking standpoint. It hits on the Hollywood cliché of waitressing for young actors trying to orient themselves to the demands of the industry. In some regards, it even implies that success can and will be found, but at what cost?
Yet, somehow with its charm and charisma, it helps the audience feel better about the difficult realities of life in Los Angeles. It downplays the frustration of being stuck in traffic through its opening musical number on the 105 and 110 interchange. It illuminates the beauty of L.A. that is often lost among the morning smog and bustle on the 405 freeway.
“La La Land” provides hope for all those in the audience who imagine that there is a better life out there than the one they are living right now. It encourages them to fight through the adversity of pursuing those dreams, and it does so in a light-hearted, grandiose fashion of music and dancing. Justin Hurwitz’s musical score perfectly complements the fluctuating mood of the film.
“La La Land” is every bit as worthy of all its recent Golden Globe success and the Oscar buzz it is receiving. For fellow Los Angelinos, it provides a warm, sense of nostalgia. Its inaccuracies-which only those familiar with the greater Los Angeles terrain would understand-* are easy to look past through its genuine spirit and the magical element displayed by Chazelle’s portrayal of the city.
“La La Land” will leave you whistling out of the theater as if you were Gosling on the Hermosa Beach Pier and maybe just back to the ticket office to see it again.