La La Land is the best movie of 2016 in my opinion. Here’s why:
In 2016, I didn’t give a single movie a 10/10 because to be a 10, a movie has to truly be something special. The best movies have lasting impressions on viewers. They make you go through emotions and get you to think about it way after you’ve seen it. Damien Chazelle has crafted a brilliant, energetic, and amazing feel-good emotional journey in the form of La La Land.
First of all, I’m not even the target audience of this film. I’m not a big fan of musicals even though I love The Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain. However, those movies existed in an era in which musicals were the big thing, and now, musicals tend to feel dated. Secondly, as a single male who went to go see the movie alone, I didn’t think the movie would speak to me since most of my peers used this as a date movie. I’ve never really been a fan of romance movies because of how they tend to be predictable. I’m basically the opposite of the average person who would see this film. I am elated to say that I do not regret any part of seeing this film alone. Though many recent musicals are good, none of them top La La Land. I would go so far as to say this is the best musical I’ve seen ever. I’m really not kidding.
On paper, the plot seems pretty simple. Sebastian, an aspiring jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling, falls in love with Mia, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone, against the backdrop of Hollywood. While this sounds like a typical romance film, it features some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in a while. Because the characters speak with meaning, they become more lifelike even though the story is fictional. For example, when Ryan Gosling explains to Emma Stone the reason why jazz is so fantastic, I started to view Sebastian as a person and not a character. I was so invested in these two characters because of the great screenplay by Damien Chazelle and the amazing performances by both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Both Gosling and Stone give career best performances that really won me over. These two people don’t just deserve Oscar nominations; they deserve the award itself. They created such a memorable on-screen duo that I really bought everything that they said. There was not a moment of doubt that crossed my mind when it came to the authenticity of the characters, and that’s mainly due to top-notch acting.
Though the acting is perfect, I would give major credit to Damien Chazelle for being able to do what he did. Many of the scenes were done in one take with no editing. The songs were mostly done in one entire take, Ryan Gosling’s piano scenes were done in one shot to show that it was actually he who was playing the piano and not a body double, and Emma Stones singing scenes were done in a single take to show that it was her actually singing. Often times, films use editing for large scenes because it’s just really hard to do everything in one take and manage to keep the camera alive throughout the whole scene. However, Chazelle was able to overcome these obstacles by probably practicing constantly. Think about it: if one thing were to mess up, the whole scene would have to start over. Chazelle needed to give everyone direction so no one would mess up, and he did it perfectly. Each shot that was staged was brimming with color and fresh ideas. The way he used color and lighting to convey emotions was something that a lot of films don’t have. Chazelle’s use of lighting added a sleek and modern flicker to an otherwise nostalgic work of art. If you can’t tell already, I think this guy deserves an Oscar for both screenplay and direction, and I hope that he gets it.
Since there wasn’t much editing in the film, the movie needed to rely on great cinematography. Many of the shots had great use of camera movements. Each scene felt alive and I would be stupid not to give credit to the cinematographer, Linus Sandgren. Honestly, I could not think of a dull moment in the entire film even though some scenes were slow. In fact, those slow moments kept me glued to the screen anticipating what would happen next. Also, the visuals of the film are much grander to see on the big screen. Usually, I go to big budget blockbusters because that’s where the big theatre screens shine. However, La La Land works MUCH better in the theatre (technically I wouldn’t know for sure since I haven’t seen it at home, but trust me). This film looks phenomenal in the theaters since the big screen allowed me to appreciate every detail that was put into the film.
Since La La Land is a musical, the thing I was looking forward to the most was the music. Every song actually added layers to the characters and had reasons to be there. Most of the time, musicals have throwaway songs just for popcorn entertainment. While these songs were immensely entertaining, they were seamlessly woven into the script. The lyrics actually have meaning because they progress the story further and add more to the characters. Composer Justin Hurwitz created gorgeous songs with varying emotional tones. Right after I watched the film, I found the soundtrack on YouTube and just listened to the songs on my drive back home. Though the songs feel natural in the movie, I could easily listen to them because they are so good. Hurwitz also did the soundtrack for Whiplash, which was Chazelle’s last directorial effort (it was also my favorite movie of 2014). Though all of them are equally fantastic, “City of Stars” was the only one that got a Golden Globe nomination. In my opinion, all of the songs should have gotten one. It’s really difficult to chose one, but my favorite song in the whole film is “Epilogue” because it combines the best elements of all the other songs.
The last thing I’m going to talk about before I do the whole “overall” thing has to do with the message that the film sends. Though it’s a romance movie on paper, I viewed La La Land as a film about two people who just want to follow their dreams. When Sebastian describes to Mia the reason that he loves jazz, he says that it’s all about clashing and compromise, and this is very exciting. In retrospect, that’s what pursuing dreams is all about. Sometimes in life, you have to compromise to achieve greater things. Sometimes differing ideas will clash, but the result is something beautiful. In the end of the movie, when this message really comes to fruition (I don’t want to spoil it), I was touched in the heart. This message really resonated with me and I left the theatre feeling good as a person.
I could rave about this movie as much as I want, but unless you want 2000 words of me saying “THIS IS FANTASTIC – GO SEE IT,” I can’t really say anything more without getting into spoilers. Yes, I know this review is rather short, but that’s only because the movie was just so great. If I find that I have anything more to say, I’ll definitely edit the article and add it in. Other than that, I really can’t say much more.
The bottom line is simple: GO SEE THIS MOVIE. It will make you fall in love and will make you want to pursue your passions. This movie is perfectly sums up reason why I love movies. I haven’t seen anything like La La Land before. It’s perfect in every sense and left me speechless at the theatre. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m going to give La La Land a perfect 10!
Categories: Movie/TV Reviews