REVIEW: La La Land

Review by Dustin Heller

“La La Land” is the new musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.  This is the third time the pair have appeared in a film together following “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad.”  The film is written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the genius behind the 2014 smash-hit “Whiplash.”  Along with the leads, the film stars John Legend, J.K. Simmons and Rosemarie DeWitt. “La La Land” is rated PG-13 for some language.

Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress who currently works as a barista and is struggling to find her place in Los Angeles with one failed audition after another.  Sebastian (Gosling), a jazz pianist, dreams of opening his own club one day but in the meantime is stuck working aimless jobs playing music he doesn’t love.  After a couple of chance meetings between the two, they begin to fall in love and Los Angeles serves as the backdrop to their love story.  As time passes, the hope of their dreams begin to fade as Sebastian is playing in a band that he’s not passionate about and Mia can’t seem to get her big break.  Sebastian’s new gig takes him away from Mia for prolonged periods of time and thus thrusting a wedge in between them.  As they grow apart, a big break finally comes for Mia that will either pull them closer together or force them apart once and for all.

“La La Land” is a mesmerizing and vibrant film that is a hilarious and heart-breaking all at the same time.  I realize that is a pretty broad statement, but this movie is overflowing with charisma and just outright entertaining from start to finish.  The opening number performed in LA traffic starts things off with a bang, whereas the closing flashback scene is gut-wrenchingly beautiful.  Damien Chazelle is proving to be one of the best young directors working today.  His use of color and music to portray feelings and mood is a thing of brilliance.  I’m already looking forward to see what he does next.  The chemistry between Gosling and Stone is off the charts.  They are that on-screen couple that you wished were together in real life because they’re so good together.  I expect a number of awards are in the cards for this movie and the people involved in making it, and deservedly so.  “La La Land” isn’t my choice for best film of 2016, but it might just be the most fun I had at the movies all year.

Grade:  A-

“La La Land” opens in theaters on Friday, December 16.