I grew up watching movie musicals. I loved Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, On the Town and more. And while there have certainly been musicals since that golden age, not many have captured the magic infused within those classics. IN 2014 writer/director Damien Chazelle caught a break after his breakout hit film Whiplash took critics and audiences by storm. So Chazelle jumped at the chance to use that recognition to make a film he thought he would never be allowed to make. An old-fashioned movie musical with a modern twist. And once he got two of the hottest stars in Hollywood to star, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, the crazy dream became reality.
Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress struggling to pay the bills and make it to as many auditions as possible. Sebastian (Gosling) is a jazz musician scraping by playing dingy bars and low paying gigs. But once Mia and Sebastian find each other, their lives change as success creeps in and forces them to face the reality of achieving their dreams and the consequences that accompany success.
I saw La La Land rather late in the game, after all the hype and critical acclaim. And being the fan of musical’s that I am, I was pretty psyched for a nostalgic trip. I came out of the movie with very mixed feelings but ultimately enjoyed the movie. The visuals are gorgeous. Gosling and Stone still have wonderful chemistry and are great on screen together. The music is well done and entertaining. But I think where La La Land missed the mark for me was that it was about struggles and troubles in life and it was all done with a sharp degree of whimsy missing. There are surreal scenes, great transformative scenes of blending reality with fantasy, but it was missing a carefree element that was essential to the golden age of musicals, especially those of Gene Kelly. Even when characters in Kelly’s movies were dealing with struggle, it was done with an easy happiness and effortless joy that seemed to be missing from La La Land. There are moments there but not enough to make it a classic for me. But it is still a bold movie for these times, a wonderful musical exercise in storytelling that is still well worth seeing.