“LA LA LAND” My rating: B+
128 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
From practically its first frame “La La Land” announces that it’s not going to be your routine movie experience.
In one long, impossibly complicated moving shot, several hundred motorists — stranded by a traffic jam on an L.A. freeway — spontaneously break into dance, boogying on their car roofs, leaping, prancing and singing the new song “Another Day of Sun.”
Yes, it’s a musical.
Damien Chazelle, the 31-year-old auteur who displayed his love of both cinema and jazz with 2014’s stunningly intense”Whiplash,” here attempts nothing more than to take on the long tradition of Hollywood musicals.
“La La Land” is a bittersweet romance, a valentine to jazz and our collective memories of classic movies, and a sterling example of state-of-the-art filmmaking. Small wonder it received a leading seven Golden Globe noms and is a front-runner for Oscar’s best picture.
Our guy is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a Miles-and-Coltrane-loving jazz pianist who dresses in ’50s retro Sinatra style, drives a pristinely restored land-shark convertible and dreams of running his own club.
For now, though, he miserably plinks out Christmas carols at a supper club, incurring the owner’s wrath by embellishing familiar tunes with bebop digressions.
“I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired,” he rationalizes.
Our girl is Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who pours java at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot. Mia throws herself into dispiriting auditions, where her heartfelt emoting is often rudely interrupted by the casting director’s cellphone and gofers delivering lunch.
As with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they meet cute, dislike each other, meet again and click, their deepening relationship encapsulated in a couple of brilliantly choreographed (by “So You Think You Can Dance’s” Mandy Moore) numbers: an exuberant dance on a hillside drive in Griffith Park at sunset, and a gravity-free after-hours pas de deux in the park’s famous observatory. (more…)