The first time I saw La La Land, I walked into the theater having no clue as to what the film is about, who is in it, or what my experience would be; I hadn’t seen the trailer beforehand, and aside from hearing some buzz about it from other film critics, I knew practically nothing about it. 128 minutes later, after the final scene concluded and the credits began rolling, I sat in my seat overcome with reverent awe; La La Land had blindsided me in the best possible way. Now, after attending the movie for a second time and many hours contemplating it, I will firmly say that not only is it my unanimous pick for the best movie of 2016, but it is also the greatest film I have seen.
As a film critic, I find no greater joy than watching a skillfully created masterpiece––and my goodness, La La Land is far more than that. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land takes place in a modern-day yet old-fashioned Los Angeles. When the paths of an aspiring actress named Mia (Emma Stone) and a zealous jazz pianist named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) cross, romance ensues and their story is told through song as they attempt to make their dreams become realities. What results is an unforgettable and inspirational tale of ambition and passion.
Among the many pieces of praise I have for La La Land, one of the most prominent is the perfect casting for every character. In what I consider the best performance (to date) of her career, Stone’s role as Mia was executed in a quirky and lively manner that is both relatable and engaging. Another notable performance in the film is done by Gosling as he positioned himself into Sebastian’s devoted character. From their humorous conversations to their singing and dancing, Stone and Gosling’s performances are worthy of regard because of the realism of their emotion. As the story advanced, I found myself really rooting for them in their relationship and aspirations.
Something unique about La La Land is that each scene holds special significance. In the first few minutes of the film, during mid-day rush hour in downtown Los Angeles, a musical number breaks out on an overpass amidst bumper-to-bumper traffic. Jumping out of their cars, dancing with one another, and singing about life in L.A., the cast makes the first song one to remember. Despite being fairly abrupt and bold for the first scene, each aspect––from the cinematography (Linus Sandgren) to the music (Justin Hurwitz) and choreography (Mandy Moore)––is articulated and sets a standard for the film. Throughout the rest of the movie, more flawless choreography is melodized to amazing music, both seamlessly blending into the storyline in such a way that I forgot I was watching a musical.
In addition to the phenomenal music and choreography, the visuals of La La Land also distinguish themselves as works of art. By shooting at a variety of locations scattered across Los Angeles, Sandgren utilizes a bright color scheme that flows smoothly and compliments the retro-vibrant clothing (Mary Zophres) each character wears––another minor detail I think is absolutely brilliant. Many sequences, transitions, and fonts used throughout the film are also reminiscent of films released during the mid-twentieth century, creating a heartwarming sense of nostalgia that adds to the overall experience.
One theme I believe to be present throughout the film is the old adage that just because something is new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. The film seems to support this through the way jazz is portrayed, but it also appears to be evident in the lifestyles of Mia and Sebastian and the way the film is conducted. This underlying theme demonstrates the many levels La La Land has; nearly everyone can find something of value from watching it.
Of everything I have mentioned, though, the things I enjoy most about La La Land are those that touch me on a personal level, such as the informational aspect within the film. Since I am passionate about and an enthusiast for jazz myself, I really appreciate that La La Land explains how it is an exhilarating genre and why it warrants a resurgence. By constructing and writing the story the way he did, Chazelle shows his vigor and ardor for jazz and I deeply respect him for it.
La La Land is a movie made for every enthusiast, lover, and dreamer out there. It’s an elegant film full of standout characters, music, and dancing; furthermore, the visuals are stunning and the film is—from the first scene to the ending sequence—filled with both apparent and underlying themes and morals. It’s fun, emotional, unconventional, motivating, and thought-provoking. I strongly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is searching for a wondrous two hours and, as a result of these critiques, I have awarded La La Land a rating of 5 out of 5 stars (A+).