Sunday, February 5, 2017

La La Land

If there's one thing that's a guaranteed escape from the ugliness of reality, it's a musical. From Fred Astaire to Gene Kelly, to Vincente Minnelli and Bob Fosse, it's a genre people find themselves coming back to time and time again. (And yes, even those who claim they're not big on musicals.)

Damien Chazelle's La La Land is a tribute to the musicals of decades passed, its allusions ranging from Jacques Demy (the use of color) to those churned out by MGM's peak (the costume design and choreography). And like what he showed with his previous film Whiplash, Chazelle shows that the music is key to its story. (A possible recurring theme within future titles?)

Starring in La La Land are Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, apparently another cue from Hollywood's past (using those considered triple threats; added points if they're extremely photogenic). That's not to disregard what the two bring to the film. However, it'd be a more believable premise had the leads been played by actors of color.

Think about it: La La Land (as its title alludes to) focuses on two people -- one an actress, the other a pianist -- struggling to have their dreams become realities. Knowing the kind of business Hollywood is, it's hard to believe that two white people in their twenties and thirties would be in that situation. (And just imagine had this been set in the fifties or sixties!)

That small quibble aside, La La Land is deeply charming. You don't need to be well-versed in classic musicals to appreciate it (though it certainly doesn't hurt). And as he showed with Whiplash, Chazelle has definitely proven his potential.

My Rating: ****1/2

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