Middleburg Review: Damien Chazelle’s ‘La La Land’, Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

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The last time Damien Chazelle brought us a film, it was “Whiplash” and it was a cynical, destructive, and angry take on succeeding in making something of oneself in the world of music (and Miles Teller’s character hadn’t graduated from the school yet). Chazelle’s “La La Land” is distinctly everything that the former is not. A musical, the film is optimistic and dreamy. It’s a love letter to Los Angeles and while the film creates an alluring beauty to the city which would otherwise go unnoticed, “La La Land” is grounded in an emotional reality that lends itself to even the film’s most surreal moments.

Mia (Emma Stone) is a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. She’s an aspiring actress who keeps going to audition after audition. The only thing she’s guaranteed at this point to receive is a rejection. Stuck in an equal rut is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who dreams of opening his own jazz club one day but is resigned to playing jingles at local lounges and seeking the help of fellow musician, Keith (John Legend). Mia and Sebastian meet and fall in love and continue to dream big but must face life’s rough patches on their way to success.

Chazelle romanticizes a lot of areas in Los Angeles that are generally overlooked or underrated. He creates an atmosphere of awe, even going so far as to open the film with a group of people singing and dancing while stuck in traffic on the freeway. The fading light of day as the sky settles into the darkening light of twilight is filled with not only the stars, but of never-ending possibilities for the film’s two lead characters.

The music and songs are memorable and will have you tapping your feet and humming the melody of the film’s main theme afterward. The choreography is on point and everything from the film’s set decor and production, to its setup and cinematography is enticing and a visual feast for the eyes. It’s entertaining and heartfelt, breathtaking and heartbreaking, hopeful and warm.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have always had great chemistry together, but they’ve never been more charming than they are here. Their onscreen romance blossoms naturally and the two play off of each other really well. Within their gazes is a deep sense of hope that their dreams will be fulfilled even if the day-to-day aspects of their lives threaten to halt everything.

“La La Land” is easily one of the year’s best movies and one that could be watched more than once. It exudes joy and balances itself with poignant moments. What happens within the musical spectrum is surreal, but the film stays grounded in its characters’ very real emotional landscape. Los Angeles has also never looked more wonderful and the film manages to achieve a sense of romance and big dreams while grounding itself in the possibility of getting one, the other, or neither. Charming, alluring, beautiful, and emotionally balanced, “La La Land” is more than a satisfying film; it’s an enchanting experience.

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Wonderful

Charming, alluring, beautiful, and emotionally balanced, "La La Land" is more than a satisfying film; it's an enchanting experience.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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