by Cassie Ochoa
He’s a jazz pianist. She’s an actress. They fall in love. Can La La Land’s trailer make it any more obvious? Yet, beneath this love story is a tale of artistry. Mia is a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers lot and Sebastian is a pianist trying to revive the original spirit of jazz. The two are unsatisfied with their plight under the sunshine of modern Los Angeles, as they are entranced by the possibility of their futures, but constantly rejected.
Thanks to director, Damien Chazelle, and an impressive team, this story is enlivened by a bold visual aesthetic. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren (American Hustle, Joy) is one of the most breathtaking aspects of La La Land, with every musical number flowing seamlessly into the main action. Each frame is colored impeccably and harkens back to the major studio musicals without being extremely derivative. The choreography by Mandy Moore (Silver Linings Playbook, Dancing with the Stars) is show-stopping, spinning from the humdrum of modern life to the flamboyance of the mythical status that musicals occupy. Every movement feels organic, springing from a slight gesture and escalating without missing a beat.
A special shoutout goes to Justin Hurwitz and the writing team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for the music that pumps through La La Land. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are not natural Broadway stars, but the film’s incredibly catchy numbers are within their range. There’s hope and tragedy winding through the songs, both being brought to light with aplomb by Emma Stone in “Audition (The Fools Who Dream).” Even the major love theme, “City of Stars,” will get stuck in the public consciousness with its simplicity and compelling emotional tone.
Ultimately, La La Land is a breathe of fresh air and beautiful follow-up to Chazelle’s 2014 hit, Whiplash. La La Land packs an emotionally well-rounded script, catchy musical numbers, heartbreaking performances and gorgeous cinematography. Both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make their characters come to life with a pulse for artistic passion. So, here’s to the fools who dream! And may the works of Chazelle continue on for years to come.