Marking the third time that Emma Stone (Mia) and Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) have worked on a project together, La La Land ties them together in a movie filled with subtle contradictions that are seamlessly blended together in a weird, but genius form of movie fusion.
It’s a musical which has more spoken dialogue than sung. It lives in the past with 80’s cover bands, jazz music, cassettes, and costumes that would have been worn on sets for movies based in the 50’s or 60’s, which we’re quickly reminded isn’t the correct time period when we keep ending up reminded of Hollywood’s affinity for Toyota Priuses or references to The OC.
It’s a celebration of all the things Los Angeles has become and a eulogy for what it was. A marker of how people change, but the weather stays the same. A celebration of old movies with a cast of young stars.
Above all else it’s a movie about trying to find the right balance between career and love and whether that can even possibly exist in a city where we’re either ambitious enough in our careers to neglect our relationships or content enough with another person to set aside our professional goals to just be happy.
It’s easy to see the chemistry that comes from having acted with another person so often and which exists between Gosling and Stone. Chazelle’s understanding of musical tempo only further helps to craft the story, as he begins with a slow build, inciting bits of energy that ultimately lead to a whirlwind ending that will leave viewers falling in love with the idea of Hollywood again.
La La Land isn’t a revival of the musical as many are expecting it to be. Instead, it stands on a balance between meta, in its looks at art as well as Los Angeles, and escapist, in its ability to craft something so not traditionally Hollywood and real, but dream like at the same time.
And when all the elements come together, as contradictory as they may seem, they manage to create not only a movie unlike any that you’re likely to see this year, but a story so artfully crafted it’ll be hard to imagine it being done any other way.
La La Land releases in theaters nationwide December 9, 2016.