The old fashion musical is back thanks to Damien Chazelle (Whiplash). La La Land a star-driven musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is getting rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival. High kicks, stunning visuals, stardust and sets pieces Chapelle makes this a love letter to cinema.
La La Land plays upon the struggles and sacrifices people who pursue careers in show business face. How could we not be interested when Pasek and Paul are the lyricists.
Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist who yearns to own his own club, but is stuck playing jingles at a restaurant. Manager (J.K. Simmons) who isn’t a jazz fan and wants what he wants. Ms. Stone is Mia, a college dropout who wants to be an actress, but spends her days as a barista on the Warner Bros. studio lot. Instead of being a star she serves their coffee. Her auditions are achingly interrupted by food orders being brought in mid-tears, or casting directors who can’t ever bother to look up from their phones.
Sebastian and Mia meet first in a traffic jam, where a script-reading Mia has annoyed Sebastian whose car horn and passive aggressive pass and glare knocks her off course. Then, after leaving a not so nice Hollywood Hills party Mia finds her car towed. As she wanders down into Hollywood she is drawn into the restaurant by Sebastian’s melodic melody. As she witnesses Sebastian being fired for his melody she attempts to tell him how beautiful it was, but he doesn’t even act like she exists. Finally their paths cross and sparks fly.
In between there are lots of high energy musical numbers that are in a way a disconnect until Gosling and Stone sit on a park bench overlooking LA at sunset and tap-dance. Here both La La Land and this charming duo find their tempo and it is breath taking. That’s La La Land‘s first show-stopping number.
Sebastian has to play tunes that aren’t his own to pay the bills. He joins a band that is ffronted by John Legend. He becomes successful but compromised. Mia feels like a failure as an actress. Then the third act brings a Stanley Kowalski moment for Gosling and Stone sings “Audition,” a song that will turn into an instant classic.