Ohhh, what can I say about La La Land? If you’ve seen the trailer or photos, you probably already think it looks dreamy. I can confirm that it is. But with one foot in reality, too.
The premise is simple: struggling actress/barista Mia (Emma Stone) meets struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in Los Angeles, they bond over their artistic aspirations, and we see where they go from there, both in life and their careers.
The simple concept doesn’t mean nothing happens; these two go through their ups and downs. Emma Stone makes you laugh in the awkward audition situations, but we also feel her frustration and self-doubt: what if she isn’t good enough to make it? How do we know when to give up?
Gosling, via piano lessons, convincingly plays the beautiful, melancholy original pieces composed by Justin Hurwitz. The leads have proven they have chemistry in two previous movies together, but I think it’s most heartfelt here.
This is only the second movie I’ve seen by writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) but I’m ready to call him an auteur, a word I don’t use often. His is a singular vision; you won’t see another movie like La La Land this year. It’s at once nostalgic and modern. The heightened reality is a feast for the eyes, the music a balm for the soul, the emotions earned. I don’t even like musicals and I swooned over the musical numbers. It’s not just a movie but an experience.
As magical as it is, La La Land never crosses into saccharine territory and doesn’t forget real life isn’t perfect. It just encourages you to dream, and lets you know you’re not alone.