Hats off to La La Land

Damien Chazelle wanted to make an original modern musical and he definitely succeeded.  His vision, dedication and passion are so exceptional, that it resulted in 14 Oscar nominations for his superb cast and crew.

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The passing of time and consequently the plot is marked by the turning of the seasons, and all the action takes place in Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling stars as Sebastian, a brilliant jazz pianist who admires the classics, but can’t hold the job down due to his refusal to play cheesy music. Emma Stone co-stars as Mia, a struggling actress going from audition to audition, and who, to make ends meet,  has to work as a waitress at Warner Brothers Studios, where she is constantly surrounded by film celebrities and other industry bigwigs. It is here where a chance encounter leads to a wild romance for both, Mia and Sebastian.

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Filmed in the style of 70’s and 80’s musicals, this work is a delight for lovers of old-fashioned movies like me. From the very first scene the viewer is immediately swept away by a never before seen musical version of Los Angeles; it’s essentially a marvellous marriage between acting, dancing and singing, and I believe that our generation has been wanting something like this for a long time. Sadly, dancing was all but gone from the big screen after the end of the 80’s, although it has been seen periodically over the last decade.

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For the film’s choreographer, Mandy Moore, who became known thanks to her work on the TV program So You Think You Can Dance, La La Land is “the Super Bowl of her career”. Indeed, to the discerning eye, La La Land’s dancing movements were largely influenced by Singin’ in the Rain, Top Hat and definitely Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Both, onscreen and off-screen, the two lead actors were very familiar with each other before approaching the script of La La Land, which as one could imagine made the rehearsals, learning process and the final performance magical, as the chemistry between them is comparable with that of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Typical of classical Hollywood movies, boy meets girl and both fall in love while singing and dancing. Although the technique is far from perfect, there is however, a real spontaneity that jumps out of the screen at movie goers.

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Damien Chazelle’s script turns into a masterpiece when combined with Justin Hurwitz’s incredible score. They put a smile on my face, which I couldn’t get rid of even hours after leaving the cinema. First thing I did when I got home was play the soundtrack on my phone.

As much as I love dance and a spectacular number where everyone is doing a million crazy and super difficult things, in order to really grab the audience’s attention and emotion, it should feel like they are normal people dancing.  And for me, that was the reason why the movie connected with people who aren’t necessarily into musicals.

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In my opinion, the movie is actually far from romantic because it lacks the traditional happy ending, which would be Mia and Sebastian pairing up, but taking that final unexpected ride made the movie even better. I am not saying La La Land is the perfect movie, but its melancholic flow and dreamy atmosphere took my breath away.

 

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