La La Land

La La Land

Exploring the plight of the struggling, hungry artist and the choices they must sometimes make in order not to compromise their chosen professions, La La Land stands out from being yet another attempt at reviving the musical. Set amidst the bustle of modern-day Tinseltown, the film’s inspiration may be the musicals of the 50’s and 60’s but its concerns and the dilemmas the characters face are universally contemporary.

The film reunites Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone for the third time. Perhaps this is why their chemistry appears to be so endearing. Their onscreen relationship forms effortlessly and feels genuine – they laugh and giggle while singing, are imperfect human beings who make mistakes and sometimes say the wrong things but they never seem fake. Gosling’s jazz crazy Sebastian is cut from the same cloth as the ambitious Miles Teller character from Whiplash, which makes sense given that this is director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to that absorbing film. Sebastian is focused on starting his own jazz club but meets Stone’s Mia, an aspiring actress who survives on being a barista, and the two soon hit if off, waltzing to music and tapping around the highlights of a dreamy L.A. that’s much different than anything in a Michael Mann film.

While there are whimsical moments, like the extraordinarily filmed, flash mob inspired opening song or a scene set in the famed Griffith Observatory where the love-struck couple seem to fly (which conveys how they feel), what truly elevates La La Land from the usual genre trappings is the clairvoyant writing that presents a grounded and sobering look at relationships. Like he did with Whiplash, Chazelle scripts a compelling narrative that never loses focus of its primary thrust – the pain of artistic (or any vocational) disappointment and how that drives us. If the film’s first half provides energetic, fun escapism, the second strips this away to become more meaningful in a bittersweet, hopeful and truthful way.

What’s most astounding about La La Land’s achievement is that it walks the tightrope of being both a crowd pleaser and an artistic triumph and succeeds. It creates the quandary of ambition vs. love and resolves this in a realistic way that doesn’t betray its wonderful, throbbing tone. The setup may not be completely original (it’s essentially 500 days of Summer) and one of its flaws is that while the main characters are anything but a cliché they are still archetypical portrayals of those seeking big breaks. Regardless of this, La La Land is just so delightfully (and infectiously) put together that it’s hard not to be enraptured by this sincere, passionate love letter to Hollywood musicals, the city of L.A. but most all, the movies.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and