Wednesday, December 7, 2016

No Business Like Show Business In LA LA Land

By Darlene Donloe

Director and Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle’s latest film, LA LA Land, is a throwback to Hollywood’s Golden Age, a bygone era when the musical was king.

Chock full of witty little ditties sung by stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, LA LA Land’s flavor is taken straight from the classics.

It’s a bit campy, but if you’re a fan of that genre, it’s a satisfying journey through LA LA Land.

There aren’t a lot of musicals rocking the screen these days, although using music and dance as an integral part of a movie’s narrative used to be the way to an audience’s heart. Back in the 40s when the movie musicals popularity peaked – they were grand spectacles complete with elaborate sets, vibrant costumes, great cinematography, solid dance numbers and, of course, great music. 

Chazelle takes a page from that era and makes it all his own. In some ways it’s a scary proposition considering that the traditional movie musical has been banished into obscurity. Young people aren’t exactly familiar with that genre and

The story is simple, but it’s not simple. It’s a story as old as time. It’s literally about two people trying to make it in show business. Well, duh!  But, there’s more, much more. Before we delve into that, here’s the story.

There is Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who, in between auditions, is a barista on a studio lot.  But she has dreams of stardom, which includes starring in her own one-woman theatrical production. Then there is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a staunch jazz pianist who works various gigs around town to make ends meet.  He doesn’t want to play anything but jazz – even when his job requires him to play something else. Both Mia and Sebastian find out early on in their careers that life isn’t fair and breaking into show business is even more unfair.

Eventually Mia and Sebastian meet. In fact, they literally bump into each other. It’s not exactly fireworks in the beginning, but, of course, the two warm up to each other.   Each supports the other’s dream until a rift shakes up the relationship and an opportunity arises that challenges their love.

In the meantime, there is plenty of music and dance numbers ala Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to move the story along.

La La Land looks at the realities of making the hard decision of whether to pursue one’s career dreams or pursuing one’s personal relationship. What to do? Both are important. Which one will Mia and Sebastian choose?

Chazelle, who is paying homage to the movie musical, has fashioned a sweet, nostalgic film with eye-popping visuals that is all at once a love story, a fantasy and a look at determination in its rawest form.

And, in the end, Chazelle reinforces, once again, that there’s no business like show business.

LA LA Land (Lionsgate), written and directed by Damien Chazelle, stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, J.K. Simons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott and Josh Pence.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), LA LA Land gets an O (oh, yeah).

LA LA Land is Rated PG-13 for some language; Running Time: 128 minutes.

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