La La Land
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La La Land

More than just a thoroughly modern musical, Damien Chazelle’s love story leaves us walking, well, dancing on air.

Securing his spot as one of the most exciting filmmakers of his generation, Chazelle takes on not one, but two genres that could use a postmodern boost. Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is an LA musician obsessed with classic jazz. Soon, he also becomes obsessed with Mia, a struggling actress played with such smart magnetism by Emma Stone, who could blame him? We all fall under the spell of their love story, as beautiful and as rocky as it may be.

Yes, this is a movie with a heart as wide as the Cinemascope screen on which it plays. We don’t just love the players, but the city in which it (mostly) unfolds. And, even more poignantly in light of current events, there’s a rainbow of an opening number that not only left me breathless, but teary eyed. Traditional dance sequences are magically staged, enhancing the actors’ impressive moves and distracting us from their charming, but unpolished singing.

Will this romance work? That, of course, is the ultimate question for the plot of this seemingly simple movie. But there’s a whole lot more at stake here. Chazelle’s love for the classic movie musical (there are clear references throughout, if you care to notice) is a comforting counterpoint to his appreciation of American jazz, an art form that’s challenges are often misunderstood by uneducated audiences. As he did in Whiplash, Chazelle highlights the music, here in its many forms, encouraging new fans.

I won’t spill the beans as to whether there is a feel good ending, but I’m delighted to note that this movie, a movie the loves movies and music, is one of the happiest filmmaking stories of the year.  

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