City of stars, are you shinin’ just for me?
I grew up watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers toe tap and twirl as the band played on. In La La Land, writer /director Damien Chazelle offers the same snap and dramatic vibrato expected after his Whiplash hit in 2014 without falling into the traps of most musical fare. This is whimsy, not kitsch.
LA is not the city of love or light or laughter. It’s the city of stars, of expectations and broken dreams, of dress up and play act, of trial and error, of big show and grand finale. Who better to cast in this musical whirlwind romance than Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Patched realism supersedes glossy perfectionism as La La offers common characters in challenging jobs and relationships who sing and swing their way through classic Rebel moments and old timey jazz bars. Barista Stone flies from one disappointing audition to the next while Gosling’s sappy Romeo throws himself into his purist jazz music. Balancing hopeful dreams and daunting realities in Broadway rhythm, they dance through every season as La La Land changes them both, for better or worse. This necessary film somehow offers dreamers windows of practical insight while in the same beat, providing hope for fatalists. The score, perfectly understated, never preaches or screams. It lilts and never leaves you. It’s somehow about you, so you won’t forget it. And you’ll possibly wonder for much longer than a moment, why you ever stopped taking piano lessons.