Friday, December 16, 2016

Movie Review: LA LA LAND

A quick Google search will find hundreds upon hundreds of positive La La Land reviews. This review will be written from a bit more personal of a perspective. The last thing I want to do is spoil a single moment of this movie for you as it slowly cycles through its limited release. So, instead of just discussing the technical achievements and directorial triumphs of La La Land, since we’re all part of one big movie-loving family, I’d like to take you through the evening where I discovered (dare I say it) one of my favorite movies of all time.

Since this is still a review, I must mention first some of the truly incredible things about La La Land. The music of La La Land deserves every accolade achievable. Gosling and Stone’s chemistry catapults them to a new level, centering them as the ultimate acting couple of our time. Chazelle’s quirky directorial style drives the story forward in a way that never feels conventional. The script includes some of the funniest moments of the year and some of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful scenes this decade. Most importantly, La La Land captures the essence of both modern and classic cinema, interweaving them together in a way that will make any theater fan remember their first musical and dream of the ones to come. There is not a single negative point I can make against La La Land that amounts to anything except for nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. On my subjective scale of cinematic excellence, La La Land rests, with a handful of other classics, at the very top.

I was late to the La La Land hype train. For weeks, I simply forgot to watch that first trailer that a handful of people were raving about, writing it off ignorantly as just another romantic comedy or something that I’d probably eventually catch at a matinee. Then, on a whim, I pulled it up on YouTube and sat enraptured as some of the most beautiful musical imagery I’d ever seen played out in front of me on my iPhone screen. From that moment, I was completely hooked and La La Land skyrocketed to the top of my anticipation charts for the year.

I sat down at my seat in Uptown Theater in a recently-renovated historic auditorium on a snowy Thursday night. I could feel my hands shaking as I stared at the screen, prepared to have every ounce of hype within me be let down by a great but not overly-great movie. I ended up sitting next to someone at my showing who was in a similar situation and both of us were bracing ourselves for the almost inevitable letdown that I had experienced with so many movies in 2016 that failed to meet my unrealistically-high expectations. As the screen dimmed and lights opened on sunny California, my eyes locked on the screen.

I don’t think my eyes left that screen once during the two hour runtime of La La Land. I’m an easily distracted moviegoer and sitting through a movie without glancing at my phone, the time, or the person sitting next to me is extremely rare. There are so many clichés in the film community – “this movie felt like it was over as soon as it began” or “this movie reminded me why I love movies.” All of those positive clichés and more are true of La La Land for me. As the final notes played, I could not believe that two hours had passed. I felt like I had both lived a lifetime with the characters on-screen and barely just started my journey with them. The person sitting next to me told me as we were walking out that I had been beaming the entire movie and that I looked like I was absolutely glowing with excitement as I walked out into the snowy Minneapolis night. 

My personal enjoyment has no real bearing on you and your cinematic experiences. But occasionally, all that needs to be said is “I loved this movie and I really believe you will too.” This, I think, is one of those cases.

I can go into detail about how the choreography of La La Land is better than anything I’ve seen in a film put out this century, utilizing set pieces and clever camera tricks in a truly ingenious way. I could talk about how, as a pianist myself, Gosling’s dedication in learning every single song that he played on-screen is completely evident for you can truly tell that he was putting himself into every note. It is definitely worth mentioning that the final act of La La Land stands apart as one of the most creative and effective endings to a movie that I have ever seen. And, of course, Emma Stone brings more to her role than she even did to her incredible performance in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), cementing herself as one of the greatest performers of my generation.

But sitting at my desk the next morning, all I want to do is see La La Land again immediately and drag everyone I know and love to the theater with me. This is a movie that must be seen in theaters to fully appreciate it. It is more than worth a four-hour drive to find a theater showing, especially if you are a fan of musicals. I will be very, very disappointed if this movie does not take Best Picture, for stacking it up against Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and other top contenders this year, no movie truly captures the beauty of cinema like La La Land. And few Oscar contenders this year will stand the test of time as strongly as Chazelle’s beautiful creation. 

Please, the moment that La La Land comes anywhere near you, go see it. You might not get the opportunity to see a movie this awe-inspiringly perfect in theaters again for a very long time.

Jonathan’s Score: 10/10
Twitter: @youngblood_95

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