Ebullient 'La La Land' is something to sing about

April AlvarezDec 10, 2016

In "La La Land", which just won the New York City Film Critics' top prize and is a shoe-in for an Oscar best-picture nomination, Stone plays Mia, an aspiring actress from Utah.

Chazelle had no interest in doing a nostalgic film. Later, after Hannah passes the bar and Richard's promised proposition turns out to be an invitation to join his firm rather than to marry him, Hannah strides into the bar, plants one on Jacob and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that she's ready to go home with him. The film is a attractive story of two traditional people in a modern world and the struggle they face together. "I thought I knew they were there, but I didn't see them in full bloom until we shot the film". They can't stop running into each other around town, and when they finally, truly connect during a screening of "Rebel Without a Cause" (and subsequent Griffith Observatory jaunt), everything seems to fall into place.

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Chazelle broke onto the scene two years ago with the movie "Whiplash" (R), which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, winning the U.S. Grand Jury Prize, the most prestigious award at the the festival. Love turns their life into a handsome song until reality intervenes. The two characters cross paths and start a relationship where together they learn about following their dreams and the positive and negative consequences that can come with that journey. And then. they dance. Gosling grins: "If they'll let us".

The story moves through the seasons (though of course the weather never changes) and soon Mia and Sebastian are happily living together and encouraging each other. And good intentions and true affection are sometimes not enough. "It makes you think about your life and the choices you've made". The look, mood and scope is enhanced mightily by sunny cinematography, clever editing and colorful production and costume design as well as a bewitching original score - music by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - but all ambitions and high-degree of difficulty flights of fancy would have been for nil had La La Land not found the right set of singing and dancing partners. La La Land is a full-service throwback to the Golden Age musical, transposed with lashings of romantic melancholy to a contemporary Los Angeles decked out in primary-colored plumage. "La La Land" is narratively ambitious and emotionally resonant, with a final ten minutes that are pure, wistful poetry. Despite all the hype, justified or not, I doubt I'm going to see this thing.

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"La La Land" is rated PG-13 for some language.

Despite their frosty freeway introduction, the two hit it off during Mia and Sebastian's next encounter at a Hollywood Hills party where Sebastian is playing another unsatisfying gig in an 80s cover band. How did the music help tell the story?

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