The Bock’s Office: ‘La La Land’ a lovely, laudable film we’ve already seen before
January 27, 2017
This year, a city that prides itself on always having the right look, the right sound and most importantly the right feel finally gets its due after decades of going unacknowledged. And, if you believe that buildup, you'll love everything about "La La Land."
If you go…
"La La Land," rated PG-13
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 128 minutes
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
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Hollywood — adopted home to thousands of transplanted hopefuls from across the world, all with dreams of making it big in TV, movies, music or other forms of show business.
Still, most of those folks face routine rejection before ever getting their foot in the door, and actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) is one of the unlucky majority still waiting for her big chance while working a menial job in the meantime.
Then there's the talented types whose lack of success is more about attitude, namely Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with a disdain for modern styles and little patience for anyone who wants him to stray from his own musical vision.
When the two repeatedly cross each other's paths, they hardly believe it to be kismet, yet there's undoubtedly an attraction, even an understanding between the pair as they keep going forward in the name of their art.
Gosling has gotten his smoldering persona down to a science at this point, not portraying the temperamental musician as someone who flies off the handle at every provocation but expresses his annoyance and occasional joy at the keyboard.
He also plays his car horn like a virtuoso.
Stone is not just a superb match but outdoes her co-star entirely as Mia, a small-town gal willing to pay her dues in Tinseltown, giving her all in every audition only to be disregarded time and again and walk out into a waiting room of look-alikes with beefier résumés.
Welcome to the biz…
It's when they become a couple that this starry-eyed duo start to come into their own, realizing their capabilities may be different than what they originally planned, though that still doesn't automatically mean happiness.
There's a very basic romance at the core of this musical that works its wonders through some surprisingly simple means, namely the magic of music, most undeniably in Justin Hurwitz's overall score and the recurring piano piece that bonds Mia and Sebastian.
Of course, some of these moments are more delusion than delight, namely the opening song and dance number "Another Day of Sun," which bombards us with the fantasy that drivers gridlocked in a freeway traffic jam will hop out of their cars just to sing about loving life in Los Angeles.
Tunes like "City of Stars," and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" are excellent, yet they somehow manage to not have their full due with cutesy bubblegum like "Someone in the Crowd" and "A Lovely Night" cluttering up the soundtrack, both of which serve as a nod to the era of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, part of a plethora of tributes to vintage cinema.
It's this blend of classic and contemporary Hollywood that makes writer-director Damien Chazelle's an alternately fascinating and exhausting experience.
Make no mistake, Chazelle has some unforgettable emotional moments like his lead couple dancing on the ceiling in the kind of sequence that seems commonplace nowadays but still retains its charm.
The story will also strike a chord with anyone who's faced either the agony of compromising what you love most or the greater horror of never getting a shot at any fulfillment.
Flawless choreography, brilliant camerawork and a painstaking attention to detail in every set piece provide still more arguments why audiences seem to love it.
That being said, this movie is thoughtful without being especially thought-provoking, a far cry from Chazelle's smaller, explosive, personal film "Whiplash." The characters are fleshed out just enough to be human yet broad enough they are relatable to everyone — and therefore no one — with the cast thankfully filling in the blanks.
On the surface, "La La Land" has it all and is in so many ways a true aesthetic achievement, but it's this apparent perfection that leaves it hollow, giving the appearance of something daring and novel while really just playing it safe imitating what came before it. Ironically, Chazelle calls out this rigidity to tradition in his own script without acknowledging he's guilty of the exact thing and purporting to create something new.
Then again, is anybody really surprised at this point that Hollywood celebrates itself for celebrating itself?
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