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Review: 'La La Land' is La La Lavish

Posted Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 3:42 PM Central
Last updated Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 3:43 PM Central

by John Couture

I have now seen La La Land four times and for anyone that has two young children can attest, that is the highest compliment that I can possibly give a film. With increasing time constraints, it's really difficult to re-watch a film once, let alone four times.

And yet, I can't wait to watch La La Land again.

That is the true power of La La Land and the reason that it deserves to be remembered as a truly great film, not just a punchline about award show flubs. I'm fairly confident that in five years from now we will still be talking about the impact of La La Land and the resurgence in musicals.

I have watched my fair share of musicals over the years and yes, I do count White Christmas as one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time, but even I was unprepared for how much this film would resonate with me. The film starts with a bit of a non-sequitur musical number to help establish what lies ahead for the next two hours, but listen closely and you will get so much more.

The song 'Another Day of Sun' is a love song to the struggling actors and actresses that take the chance and follow their hearts. While it is specific to the subject matter at hand, the general vibe would fit anyone who has taken a chance and failed only to be greeted with "another day of sun." This is where we find our two leads both literally and figuratively and bam the film takes off. Well, it sputters at first thanks to Emma Stone's Mia who is rehearsing a scene in her car while Ryan Gosling's Seb is honking at her to move.

And yes, this is a theme that resonates throughout the film, naturally. Chance meetings and gentle nudges play such a large part in who we become and yet, we never really sit back and realize them for what they are at the time.

Emma Stone won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance and I'm not sure that I have ever been more blown away but such an expected performance. I will admit it that I was never a big Emma Stone fan, but she is able to reel me with this singular performance and now I'm actually anticipating her next performance.

As for her on-screen partner, Ryan Gosling is someone that I have had to begrudgingly give him his due thanks to his ever-increasing number of spectacular performances. I admit it when I am wrong and I was wrong about Ryan Gosling. I was slow to jump on his bandwagon, but his current run of top-notch work (Drive, The Place Behind the Pines, The Nice Guys) has not only demonstrated the depth of his acting chops but also highlights his versatility.

There is one featurette on the Blu-ray that goes into his preparations for the role. When I first watched the film in theaters, I just assumed that they used a hand double and CGI on the many piano sequences, but that could not be further from the truth. He actually learned to play the piano to the point that he was able to convincingly pull it off on screen. That is impressive and I have a whole new level of respect for him due to this level of dedication to his craft.

Speaking of craft, no review of La La Land would be complete without mentioning the wunderkind behind the camera. Director Damien Chazelle is only 32 years old, but already his thin film resumé is bolstered by a Best Director Oscar for this film to go with screenwriting nominations for La La Land and Whiplash.

Did I mention that he's only 32? I feel so old, but at the same time, I'm filled with a feeling of ease knowing that the future of film is in good hands. When I see the quality of work that Damien, Colin Trevorrow and Rian Johnson have been able to complete in such a short time, I'm left speechless at the possibilities of where they will take this industry that I love so much.

I don't want to give away any of the secrets of the film, but I will say that I enjoyed storytelling choices that Damien made. There's a real cohesion to the story and yet like any good musical, the line between reality and fantasy is blurry at best and crossed several times. Even if you aren't a traditional musical aficionado, there is plenty to love about the film that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you avoided it simply because you heard it was a musical.

As someone who has seen this film many times, I am astonished that I continually come away from it with different, and sometimes, contradictory thoughts and theories. I have a real fun theory that I have hinted about elsewhere, but I will keep it out of this review so as not to ruin the experience for anyone. Let's just say that given the very specific choices of color in the film, there is one color that continually shows up and it's one that has been used in the past to convey a certain twist.

Finally, I have to take a moment to praise the filmmakers for the extensive list of special features on the Blu-ray combo. Sadly, it's becoming more commonplace these days for studios to release bare bones versions of their films with little to no special features on them. Thankfully, this offering is packed with goodies that not only take you into the filmmaking process but add to the enjoyment of the film.

No matter what aspect of filmmaking you enjoy the most, you will find a feature or commentary that will tickle your fancy. La La Land is a film that celebrates the lush history of Hollywood and musicals and the film serves as not only a love letter to the past but a bridge to the future and those who may have never given a musical a shot before.

I'm not saying that La La Land will be the gateway film to life lost in the fantastical world of song and dance, but it will give you two hours of enjoyment that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Don't make this a "waste of a lovely night," buy or rent La La Land today!