La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016): USA

Reviewed by T. Luke Madenwald. Viewed during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2017.

Damien Chazelle’s new film, La La Land, is one of the most visual beautiful and emotionally gripping movies of all time. The movie takes place in Los Angelis California and the story follows Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters, Mia and Sebastian, as they fall in love with one another and eventually have to choose their dreams or being together. Mia wants to become an established actress and Sebastian wants to own his own Jazz club.

Out of all the amazing achievements in this film such as color, lighting, choreography, editing, and story, (to name just a few);  the acting, music, and cinematography was what stood out to me the most. Ryan and Emma’s performance was nothing short of fantastic as they both brought a refreshing sense of realness and depth to they’re roles. However, if someone made me chose who was the best in the film,…I would have to say Emma Stone.  The reason is this: at no point in the film did I ever think I was watching her “act”. Coming from an actor, thats impressively hard to do and I truly bought into her character and her story. But I need to put credit where credit is due: Ryan Gosling gave one of his best performances to date La La Land and it blew me away. Ever since he showed his real acting chops in, The Place Beyond the Pines(2012), which I feel put him on the map for his raw acting talent, he has been getting better and better. There were just one or two quick reactions from his character that I didn’t really understand but that could be a take that the editor decided they needed to have. But over all, La La Land showcases wonderful acting from both of them.

During a sequence where Sebastian and Mia are dancing at the Griffith Observatory, they begin to float up and seem to dance straight into the stars. The cinematography in this sequence reminded me of other older musicals from France and Italy around the time Film Noir was extremely popular but with a brilliantly new vibrant take on it. For example the scene when Sebastian plays his song for the first time in the Jazz club and and Mia hears him play it, a light beam comes down over him and the rest of the room fades to black except for him and the piano.   This powerful and visually striking moment was made to convey subliminal messages to the audience of loneliness and the sense of entrapment. He feels as if no ones loves Jazz the way he does. And with a quick Noir fade of the lights, the audience bought into it.


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