Film Review: Two dreamers struggling to conquer Tinseltown find harmony in “La La Land”

Grade: A

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite from their roles in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” for a film that is being called the best movie of 2016. “La La Land,” which comes from director Damien Chazelle, is a romantic musical filled with upbeat numbers that will keep you dancing all night long. Not only does it have a cold open that redefines choreography, but it also leads audiences down a winding path of Hollywood heartache and razzle-dazzle. Chazelle partners with his former college roommate and fellow Harvard University graduate Justin Hurwitz to compose the film’s music.

Stone plays down-on-her-luck Mia Dolan, a barista who’s trying to make her way into acting. Gosling plays jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder, who’s trying to fulfill his dream of opening a traditional jazz music club. They find a way to make amends with their misfortune in each other — and their love blossoms over the course of many months. Eventually, the story leaves viewers with a bittersweet feeling, but honestly that effect is what makes a movie great. J.K. Simmons is also cast in this film as a bar owner and musician and singer-songwriter John Legend plays a fellow band member in Sebastian’s band.

Chazelle once again draws on his background as a jazz drummer, which he uses as inspiration for his breakout Hollywood hit “Whiplash,” featuring the Academy Award-winning acting of Simmons and the musical composition of Hurwitz. Hurwitz’s music plays a commanding role and has appropriately earned him a Golden Globe for Best Original Score. Hurwitz’s music is accompanied by the choreography of Mandy Moore (whose Twitter bio states “nope, I’m not the singer”).

To put it quite simply, Hollywood has not made a film of this caliber in a long time. “La La Land” blends so many different filmmaking elements together to make it truly magnificent. It’s widely considerate of the struggles some people go through to make a name for themselves in whatever their desired career may be. For Chazelle, who wrote and directed the film, it is obvious that the story took on a personal tone for him — and in a case where that happens, a film can become much more dynamic than if it were created out of nothing.

It’s a nice thing to see that musicals are highly anticipated among viewers. This might be because it simply stands out among the long list of romantic dramas, comedies and action and adventure films, which are the large moneymakers for the industry. Nevertheless, when a flick such as “La La Land” received the amount of widespread acclaim from critics as it did — and it’s still a musical — that’s good news for the genre.

It goes without saying that “La La Land” is the best musical film to grace the cinematic screen since “Les Misérables.” It’s funny yet dramatic and leaves you wishing life could be as glamorous as it is in the movies. Although we had to wait until the end of 2016 to finally see it, “La La Land” might be the conventional example of saving the best for last.

Nathaniel is the Culture Editor and is a fourth-year journalism and business administration student at the University of Maine. He have been writing for The Maine Campus since November of 2014, covering everything from community events to films.

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