LA LA LAND

PRE-SCREENING MUSINGS

La La Land is a musical. And while that may not be a mostly good thing in today’s day and age, the one name that stops us from making any preemptive judgment is Damien Chazelle.

Having only just moved away from the rip-roaring, disturbingly gleeful Whiplash, an excellent (if frightening) film on the obsessive passion of music, viewers would only just want to know what would be next. And so, despite the nature of this movie, the hope hasn’t died out—after all, in a film with casting as pitch perfect as Emma Stone (Easy A) and Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys), it’s difficult not to have but a slight inkling of expectation.

Unsurprisingly almost, all expectations are rightly met.

THE MOVIE

City of Stars

Damien Chazelle begins La La Land with a long take of bored, irritable people progressively breaking out of their traffic-riddled monotony to sing to Another Day of Sun. It’s a masterfully shot and executed scene, replete with choreographic and coordinative accuracy, bringing buoyancy and life to a scene that could otherwise be deemed as showy should it have been in the hands of another director. The shot doesn’t cut by the end of the song, as could easily have been the case. In contrast, it decides to wait up for the title and chapter marker to introduce themselves and be on their ways before the camera—previously static for a few seconds—glides yet again to its protagonists, Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone).

A shot this long and this busy could as easily lose its novelty within a minute, but Chazelle, in collaboration with cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle), makes sure there is an overall dynamic graph everywhere the camera follows its joyful, unabashed subjects distracting themselves from a what looks like a disastrous traffic situation. The director, thankfully, doesn’t stop there and makes sure the dazzling breathlessness interchanges itself for human restlessness. Two people in their different worlds—one obsessed with achieving jazz purity, and the other with an audition that she hopes would be the big ticket she’s always dreamed of—are filled with a clock of palpitating urgency that keeps ticking. And while the rest of the world dances to yet Another Day of Sun, Seb and Mia’s days haven’t arrived yet; no. They’re in their little universes trying to reach heights they then find insurmountable to achieve.

La La Land is filled with a plethora of such moments. Living in a city of dreams isn’t that easy, and while Sandgren’s gorgeous moving photography could often lead viewers to misconstrue the film to be a love letter to the city of Los Angeles, one would find on a closer look that it is far from that. It’s a love letter to the dreamers who have deliberately chosen to be out of touch with the harsh, often societally constructed, realities of today’s world that when pulled out of it, it feels intolerable. Moments in the third act, where the metaphorical bubble painfully bursts for one of its protagonists, who is still implored to give it another chance almost feels like a callout to the tens and thousands of humans who’ve given in to a dreamless life.

[La La Land is] a love-letter to dreamers who have deliberately chosen to be out of touch with the harsh, often societally constructed realities of today.ANKIT OJHA

We see bits and pieces of the monotonous life too. The downward graph of the ever-energetic Sebastian as he joins a well-paying musical gig with a record label reaches a harrowing low point as viewers are witness to a passive-aggressive argument between the two lovers. This is an incredible scene, for not even for a single moment does it feel like a token conflict trope thrown in just to shuffle some proceedings around. It’s an incredibly real, bitter fight between two people who have but a self-imposed wall of misunderstanding built between them.

But it’s not before the very last few shots where you realize just how imperative it must have been to cast the right people. Initially serving up as an idea with much younger people breaking into the thriving entertainment scene in the eponymous city, the movie was to star Emma Watson and Miles Teller. Due to them stepping down for their respective film commitments, Chazelle gracefully aged their characters, allowing for Gosling and Stone to replace them. While this decision has only worked for the film—it’s a lot more painful to see a lot more years added onto what seems like a never-ending struggle—one has to credit their towering performances to turn it into what it is. Giving it their complete conviction, Gosling and Stone turn into the characters they play. They move and work with such grace that when the film breaks into song, you’re right up the alley with them. As they dance and sing to their feelings of the many vividly painted moments they experience, they never miss a beat; their surreal nature never betraying anything other than the emotions their characters have for themselves and each other.

But all of it—the film’s otherworldly fusion of cinema, theater, and music—could never be possible without the sounds of Justin Hurwitz. From his foot-tapping musical numbers that are so wonderfully in sync with everything else the movie has to offer to the richly textured score, the flavor of which is a beautiful mix of cinematic nostalgia and current-day breathlessness, Hurwitz nails every single emotional graph right on its head with just the immense power of his talent. It’s no surprise Chazelle has returned to collaborate with him for what looks like the third time, because every time they’re together, the movie just never seems to fail.

The Rose Tinted Period of Love

VERDICT

A movie with both heart and soul, La La Land takes its viewers through the film every step of the way, promising an all-around magical experience never to be forgotten. This film is a musical for the ages, made for the disappointing realities of the now, all the while never losing its emotionally cathartic surrealism. La La Land isn’t just one of the (very few) good things to happen this year. It’s also one of its best films, rounding up to be a hell of a magical experience that will drive you to feel both insurmountable happiness and hurt, leaving a lasting mark on you for (possibly) days to come.

Unmissable.

Watch the trailer here:

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Star Rating:

Plot

A star-crossed romance in a city of dreams is the ultimate paradox. Mia and Sebastian would know, because they’re living it.

Cast

Ryan Gosling
Emma Stone
John Legend

Director

Damien Chazelle

Rated

PG-13

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Cast Ryan Gosling
Emma Stone
John Legend
Director Damien Chazelle
Star Rating

THE PLOT

A star-crossed romance in a city of dreams is the ultimate paradox. Mia and Sebastian would know, because they’re living it.

PRE-SCREENING MUSINGS

La La Land is a musical. And while that may not be a mostly good thing in today’s day and age, the one name that stops us from making any preemptive judgment is Damien Chazelle.

Having only just moved away from the rip-roaring, disturbingly gleeful Whiplash, an excellent (if frightening) film on the obsessive passion of music, viewers would only just want to know what would be next. And so, despite the nature of this movie, the hope hasn’t died out—after all, in a film with casting as pitch perfect as Emma Stone (Easy A) and Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys), it’s difficult not to have but a slight inkling of expectation.

Unsurprisingly almost, all expectations are rightly met.

THE MOVIE

City of Stars

Damien Chazelle begins La La Land with a long take of bored, irritable people progressively breaking out of their traffic-riddled monotony to sing to Another Day of Sun. It’s a masterfully shot and executed scene, replete with choreographic and coordinative accuracy, bringing buoyancy and life to a scene that could otherwise be deemed as showy should it have been in the hands of another director. The shot doesn’t cut by the end of the song, as could easily have been the case. In contrast, it decides to wait up for the title and chapter marker to introduce themselves and be on their ways before the camera—previously static for a few seconds—glides yet again to its protagonists, Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Stone).

A shot this long and this busy could as easily lose its novelty within a minute, but Chazelle, in collaboration with cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle), makes sure there is an overall dynamic graph everywhere the camera follows its joyful, unabashed subjects distracting themselves from a what looks like a disastrous traffic situation. The director, thankfully, doesn’t stop there and makes sure the dazzling breathlessness interchanges itself for human restlessness. Two people in their different worlds—one obsessed with achieving jazz purity, and the other with an audition that she hopes would be the big ticket she’s always dreamed of—are filled with a clock of palpitating urgency that keeps ticking. And while the rest of the world dances to yet Another Day of Sun, Seb and Mia’s days haven’t arrived yet; no. They’re in their little universes trying to reach heights they then find insurmountable to achieve.

La La Land is filled with a plethora of such moments. Living in a city of dreams isn’t that easy, and while Sandgren’s gorgeous moving photography could often lead viewers to misconstrue the film to be a love letter to the city of Los Angeles, one would find on a closer look that it is far from that. It’s a love letter to the dreamers who have deliberately chosen to be out of touch with the harsh, often societally constructed, realities of today’s world that when pulled out of it, it feels intolerable. Moments in the third act, where the metaphorical bubble painfully bursts for one of its protagonists, who is still implored to give it another chance almost feels like a callout to the tens and thousands of humans who’ve given in to a dreamless life.

[La La Land is] a love-letter to dreamers who have deliberately chosen to be out of touch with the harsh, often societally constructed realities of today.ANKIT OJHA

We see bits and pieces of the monotonous life too. The downward graph of the ever-energetic Sebastian as he joins a well-paying musical gig with a record label reaches a harrowing low point as viewers are witness to a passive-aggressive argument between the two lovers. This is an incredible scene, for not even for a single moment does it feel like a token conflict trope thrown in just to shuffle some proceedings around. It’s an incredibly real, bitter fight between two people who have but a self-imposed wall of misunderstanding built between them.

But it’s not before the very last few shots where you realize just how imperative it must have been to cast the right people. Initially serving up as an idea with much younger people breaking into the thriving entertainment scene in the eponymous city, the movie was to star Emma Watson and Miles Teller. Due to them stepping down for their respective film commitments, Chazelle gracefully aged their characters, allowing for Gosling and Stone to replace them. While this decision has only worked for the film—it’s a lot more painful to see a lot more years added onto what seems like a never-ending struggle—one has to credit their towering performances to turn it into what it is. Giving it their complete conviction, Gosling and Stone turn into the characters they play. They move and work with such grace that when the film breaks into song, you’re right up the alley with them. As they dance and sing to their feelings of the many vividly painted moments they experience, they never miss a beat; their surreal nature never betraying anything other than the emotions their characters have for themselves and each other.

But all of it—the film’s otherworldly fusion of cinema, theater, and music—could never be possible without the sounds of Justin Hurwitz. From his foot-tapping musical numbers that are so wonderfully in sync with everything else the movie has to offer to the richly textured score, the flavor of which is a beautiful mix of cinematic nostalgia and current-day breathlessness, Hurwitz nails every single emotional graph right on its head with just the immense power of his talent. It’s no surprise Chazelle has returned to collaborate with him for what looks like the third time, because every time they’re together, the movie just never seems to fail.

The Rose Tinted Period of Love

VERDICT

A movie with both heart and soul, La La Land takes its viewers through the film every step of the way, promising an all-around magical experience never to be forgotten. This film is a musical for the ages, made for the disappointing realities of the now, all the while never losing its emotionally cathartic surrealism. La La Land isn’t just one of the (very few) good things to happen this year. It’s also one of its best films, rounding up to be a hell of a magical experience that will drive you to feel both insurmountable happiness and hurt, leaving a lasting mark on you for (possibly) days to come.

Unmissable.

Watch trailer here:

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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