By Jim Tortolano
Let’s just say it at the offset: “La La Land” is arguably the best Hollywood film of the year. This musical-drama-romance is brilliant in conception and virtually flawless in execution. This film could give a lift to movie musicals similar to what “Hamilton” did on the Broadway stage.
Once a staple of the movie business, the musical has been largely a non-starter for more than a generation. With the exception, perhaps of “Chicago” in 2012, no singing-dancing flick has stirred this much interest and approval.
Like that movie, “La La Land” profits from its identification with a great American city. In this case, it’s Los Angeles. The premise of the film is welcome in its simplicity. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz musician stuck in a piano bar. They meet. Fall in love … slowly … and in the process incorporate songs which blend seamlessly with the landscape and the story line.
Damien Chazelle has written and directed a modern tribute to old school Hollywood fantasies without seeming too derivative. The songs by Justin Hurwitz (Chazelle’s college roommate) seem modern, but not overly trendy.
And, of course, the performances. Stone knocks you out with her range of talents… comedy, drama, singing and dancing. Gosling is more subdued but equally impressive. He had to learn to play piano for this film, and the result is impressive.
Nearly all stories have to have a conflict, and the central friction in this one is the problems that emerge as the two lovers move from unknowns to stars. The struggle between romance and creative ambition take center stage.
Chief in the supporting cast are John Legend (Keith) and J.K. Simmons (Bill) who portray – respectively – a jazz band leader and the owner of the piano bar.
The conclusion is satisfyingly … uh, well … go see it. No explosions, no aliens, no magic, except the wizardry of an entertaining film exceedingly well-done.
“La La Land” is rated PG-13 for some language and sensuality.
Categories: Arts & Leisure