La La Land begins in the warm winter of LA as the camera spans over an overcrowded highway of cars, honking impatiently. The camera then focuses in on a girl in her car who begins to sing the opening number “Another Day of Sun”. The woman opens her car door and begins to dance, others opening theirs and joining in the song. Soon the entire highway as far as the eye can see is singing this song. The camera shifts from person to person, car to car, dancer to dancer, never missing a beat. There are trumpets, skateboards, bikes, and even salsa dancers joining in this completely breathtaking number. And it’s all shot within one take, not a single cut in the entire number.
Already judging from this opening number, one can see that La La Land is overwhelmingly impressive. The story is written and directed by Damien Chazelle, director of the Oscar winning movie Whiplash (2014) and writer of another critically acclaimed film, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).
Chazelle claimed he wanted the movie to have the same aura as classic musical movies such as Singing in the Rain (1952), so, naturally, he shot the entire movie in cinemascope, a wide-screen camera that was used to shoot classics such as How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) with Marilyn Monroe and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). The bright colors and brilliant camera work creates a sense as if the movie took place in the ’60s, not in its setting of 2017.
Justin Hurwitz (Grammy nominated composer of Whiplash) also took the stage as the movie’s composer and musical director. Chazelle and Hurwitz wanted to create something authentic and raw, so they recorded every song with a full size 95-piece orchestra and choir. Hurwitz claimed when he was composing this movie he wanted to capture the feeling of just how devastating Los Angeles can be to “dreamers.” Yet, he also wanted to mix in the uplifting excitement of jazz. The outcome is no less than astounding.
La La Land follows Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they navigate their way through Los Angeles’ entertainment scene.
Mia, a rather audacious aspiring actress, is shown throughout the movie auditioning and practicing for roles alongside her part time job at the cafe in the Warner Brothers lot.
Sebastian is a sarcastic and somewhat bitter jazz artist whose dream is to open his own jazz club and “save jazz.” The narrative follows these two as they develop a budding romance and maneuver their way through the agonizing entertainment industry that is LA.
Stone and Gosling knock this movie out of the park with their utterly real and crude performances and surprisingly beautiful singing voices (who knew they could sing so beautifully?) along with entertaining dance numbers.
Stone claimed to channel her experiences with being a novice actress and express the pain of being rejected numerous times.
Gosling also took his part seriously by learning a whole new instrument; piano. He claimed he wanted the movie to be as real as possible and didn’t want to sacrifice any camera shots just because he couldn’t play. The pair’s portrayal of these two characters are nothing less than incredible.
La La Land is not only gorgeous with its musical numbers and astounding cinematography, it also has the unbelievable work of Hurwitz and the brilliant performances of Gosling and Stone. This exceptional film breathes grace, beauty, and realism. No one, and I mean no one, should be unfortunate enough to miss this masterpiece of a movie.