La La Land (2016)


Cast includes: Ryan Gosling (Drive), Emma Stone (The Help), Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), John Legend (Django Unchained)
Writer/Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, 10 Cloverfield Lane)
Genre: Musical | Comedy | Light Drama (128 minutes)

Huffington Post

“Another hot, sunny day in Southern California,” says the radio. The freeway is a parking lot. So what else is new? A single driver starts singing, and little by little the whole roadway breaks out in song and dance… a swirl of cheerful colors, even though it’s winter. One car stands out in a sea of Priuses… Sebastian drives a vintage Detroit model, which suits him fine because his cassette tapes are vintage, too. As traffic starts moving again, Mia is on her cell phone and the two of them exchange rude gestures. “We’re good. Thanks for coming in,” says the casting agent later that day. Seems like Mia just can’t get a break. Her 3 roommates want to drag her to a party. “Just a bunch of social climbing Hollywood types,” Mia says. But they insist… “Tonight we’re on a mission. Someone in the crowd will take you to where you want to go.”

Well… that doesn’t work out, and to make matters worse Mia forgets where she’s parked her car. While she searches, we get a flashback of Sebastian’s day. We don’t really understand why he stops in front of Van Beak and sighs, but eventually we learn it’s all about jazz. Van Beak is the last remaining jazz venues, and it’s about to become a samba and tapas joint. Jazz is Sebastian’s passion and lately he’s grumpy most of the time because jazz seems to be dying. Later that evening, Sebastian, the pianist at a fancy restaurant, is totally fed up with playing Christmas songs. No one’s listening anyway, so he tries to sneak in one of his “free jazzy” numbers. The owner is fed up with Sebastian and fires him… a scene that plays out just as Mia walks in. Once again rude gestures are exchanged… but he’s just mad at the world. Someday he’s going to have a club where people can hear jazz… and only jazz. But his dream seems to be getting farther and farther away. On the other hand, he’s starting to run into Mia more and more… “Strange that we keep running into each other.” “Maybe it means something.” “I doubt it.”

Suddenly, they’ve “stumbled on to a view… that’s tailor made for two,” and perfect for singing and tap dancing as they declare they could never fall for each other. Of course they do, but this is LA… a town where your dreams could suddenly come true… or not. As the characters musically negotiate what life has to dish out, we’re treated to a fun romp through a world that’s part corny nostalgia and part perils of modern life in the one city that really can be described as la-la land. It’s an absolutely charming confection, although those expecting a musical with the kind of professional singing and dancing we’d see on Broadway may be disappointed. The main characters exude charm more than musical talent, and it seems that’s the affect the filmmakers were going for. But that said, the film has a wonderful memorable score. As a musical film La La Land isn’t just for fans of musicals… it has a well-crafted, clever story set to music, but the music doesn’t overpower the plot or the characters. Sebastian’s interest in jazz is a throwback to an era gone by, but he’s determined to win over young jazz lovers. Mia wants Sebastian to succeed, but she’s a modern woman with career plans of her own. Maybe they’re meant to succeed together… maybe not. “Here’s to the ones who dream… foolish as that may seem.”

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A colorful romp through love and career challenges in sunny Los Angeles, the land of la-la

Popcorn Profile

Rated: PG 13
Audience: Young adults
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release 
Mood: Jubilant
Tempo: Zips Right Along
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: Love and career in Los Angeles
Language: True to life

Social Significance: Pure Entertainment

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