Movie Review – La La Land

La La Land. So what’s all the hype about? Most moviegoers didn’t even get to see this movie until early this year, so it is new in our minds, and it won five Oscars last night. Though it was one of the more profitable movies nominated, I’ll bet a lot of people still haven’t seen it.

Directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, La La Land was nominated for 14 Oscars this year, and it took 5 of those home last night in the categories of Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), Best Original Music Score (Justin Hurwitz), Best Cinematography (Linus Sandgren), and Best Production Design (David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco). But as everybody asks each year, did it deserve those? I say definitely!

It didn’t win Best Picture, Moonlight did. I was rooting for Hacksaw Ridge but … c’mon, did I really think the Academy would give this important an Oscar to Mel Gibson? Nah. A lot of people were betting on La La Land, but I figured it would be Moonlight. I mean, whatever you think of Moonlight, it is the definition of Oscar bait. I was happy to see Hacksaw Ridge win in the Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories at least. Getting back on track, I don’t think La La Land deserved to be Best Picture of this year, but it does deserve heaps of praise.

First off, La La Land is an absolutely beautiful movie. The sets, the outfits, the scenery, the lighting, the colors, the cinematography – all gorgeous. The cinematography is of special interest to me. Chazelle and Sandgren implement luscious, long takes, lovely wide shots, and a style that is judicious and flashy at the same time. The dance choreography is fantastic as well, and the two come together lovingly to create a delicious feast for the eyes. To say that La La Land entranced me from start to finish would be an understatement.

The story, too, is great. Just when you think it is going to turn conventional, predictable, and sappy, it doesn’t, but I’ll not give any spoilers. Just watch it. Suffice it to say that the movie brings out two real truths among all the glam.

The first truth is this: The road to success runs difficult and steep. Many obstructions lie in your path, and you must strive and sweat and, sometimes, suffer in order to reach your goal. You will probably never see success overnight, and hard work and hard time must be put in to see your dreams fulfilled. The weak of heart should not set out upon that road, but the persistent may see victory.

The second truth is that there are people in our lives, whom we befriend and even grow close to, people who help us along, aid our growth, and we aid theirs. We should love and cherish those people, and always remember them. However, those same people don’t always get to follow us into the next stages of our lives, the stages that they helped us reach. Sometimes, in order to reach our goals, a decision must be made to either forgo our life’s path and follow the other person’s or persons’ or to leave them behind and continue our own way. It is a sacrifice that must be measured and made, and it does contain consequences.

There is a third truth in there, too, when I think about it: Success doesn’t always mean fame. Sometimes, we must forgo fame to achieve our success. Success is the meeting of our life goals.

I could continue talking about La La Land, but I won’t go on long. I only have one negative with the movie. In some ways, the almost-celebration of Hollywood kind of overshadows the themes that the movie’s story presents. Other than that, this is a near perfect picture. Gosling and Stone give one-hundred percent, and they have a charming chemistry. The supporting actors and actresses are all good, and it’s cool to see John Legend in a movie. The music is amazing, and I especially enjoyed the focus on jazz and its merits as a genre. The characters are excellent, and their story arcs are engaging and satisfying. I’ve already mentioned the cinematography and production. The movie is extremely creative, and the nods to old musicals are handled quite smoothly.

Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention. Yeah, in case you didn’t know, this is a musical. I… don’t really like musicals. But this one, I loved it! The musical numbers all grow organically from the screenplay, and it never feels like, “Oh! Time for another song and dance number!” Even if you hate musicals, watch this if you love movies.

One more thing before I go. Fans of Tom Hanks’s underappreciated That Thing You Do! might catch that Tom Everett Scott, who played the main character “Guy,”appears in a small but important role here. When you see it, you’ll say, “Half your luck, Guy!”

Overall, I give La La Land a grade of 94%.

P.S.: If you haven’t seen Damien Chazelle’s other movie Whiplash, watch it. It is a fantastically grueling story of an aspiring jazz drummer and the price one must pay for becoming recognizably great in his or her field. I highly, highly recommend it.

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