“La La Land” proves its merit

Lars Torres, Staff Reporter

In 2014, 29-year old filmmaker Damien Chazelle, having done just one independent film, “Guy and Madeleine on a Park Bench,” broke onto the scene with a masterful sophomore effort in the form of jazz drama “Whiplash,” which starred Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Viewed by many and myself as arguably the best film of 2014, Chazelle had a spotlight shone on him on what he could possibly deliver next, especially after being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars at the beginning of 2015.  Fueled by his undying determination and imagination, he decided to take on a shelved project of his, a project called “La La Land,” about a musical set in the dazzling sights of Los Angeles centered on two dreamers wanting to make the best of their lives. With this new project, Chazelle has crafted what is not only easily the best film of 2016, but also another reminder that he is a significant force in the filmmaking industry.

“La La Land” follows aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), a college dropout who has ventured out to Los Angeles to make her mark on the Hollywood scene, but is struggling with rigorous auditions and apathetic casting directors. She scrapes by as a barista working at a cafe on a movie studio lot, serving coffee and treats to movie stars. The film also follows cash-strapped jazz musician Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), whose immense commitment and burning passion for the dying musical genre of jazz has him treading water, scraping together a living from his performances at dingy bars and small-scale jazz clubs.

The two leads cross paths over time, initially having rocky meetings until they both start falling for each other and acting on their obvious and instant chemistry.  However their blossoming love conflicts with their aspirations, as they realize that their commitment for each other can only go so far before one or both of their dreams take over—something they fear, despite their passion to fulfill their dreams.

This is a beautiful rendition of a love story beyond measure. Not a second is wasted on any kind of filler as every scene is vital to not just the love story between Mia and Sebastian, but also as a love letter to the city of Los Angeles and to the wonderful music of jazz. The opening number, “Another Day of Sun,” which is a one-take tracking shot of a busy highway overpass which showcases over dozens of dancers and singers, is a mesmerizing sequence that leaves you in stupendous awe as your jaw most likely hits the floor only five minutes into the film. While there is a handful of song and dance numbers like this one, the showstopper for me was “City of Stars”, a duet between Stone and Gosling that displays the chemistry between them. The bittersweet lyrics of Stone’s ultimate solo, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” brought me near to tears.  

What did ultimately bring me to tears was the marvelous combination of the awe-inspiring direction from Chazelle, the passionate performances from both Gosling and Stone, the impeccable art direction, the cinematography, the beautiful choreography and singing and the dizzying and beautiful ambition from pretty much everyone involved.  Not only has the film presented us with all of this, while also giving us one of the most beautiful and exciting opening sequences in years, but the final 10 minutes of the film can stand on its own as a wondrous visual and storytelling masterpiece as it connects all the films elements together.  

Never before have I been wowed by such grandiosity and such beauty that is shown on every inch of every scene. Chazelle has managed to reinvigorate the musical genre with much gusto and with his feverish and infectious love for jazz. Even if you are not a fan of musicals or are not one for love stories, you must give this film the shot it so deserves. This film is one for the fools who dream, as the film states, and honors not only all those with lofty and ambitious dreams, but also those in wonderful relationships that manage to make it work despite all obstacles.  The film is a testament that love is doing what is best for the other person, regardless of whatever happens.  I was moved to tears by the ending and the message of the film.

This is Chazelle’s magnum opus. This is the best film of 2016 and the film to see in 2017—and for years to come.

Film: “La La Land”

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Release Date: Dec. 9, 2016

Rating: 5 out of 5