TIFF: La La Land

Damien Chazelle has bested himself, and everyone else. With just 3 feature films to his name, he has established himself as a visionary, an innovator, a pusher of boundaries, a seeker of beauty.

Sean was immediately aflame with praise. He wasn’t just finding a spot in his top ten of the year for it, but dusting off old standbys in his all-time list to make room.  And let me remind you that this is a musical. Not normally Sean’s cup of tea. Sean needs one of three La La Land (2016) Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone)things to love a movie: sports, explosions, boobs. La La Land has none of those. It has singing and dancing and old-fashioned romance. Yet Chazelle has breathed new life into the genre, with riots of primary colour, energy so vivid you can taste it, and music that evokes deep troughs of emotion. And by ‘breathed new life’ I mean that he’s actually found a way to bring great musicals from cinema’s past into modern times. Forget made-for-Broadway musicals like Chicago or Into The Woods, their theatre sets turned into movie sets – it’s more reminiscent of Singin In The Rain. La La Land takes place in the streets of Los Angeles and Chazelle takes advantage of its sprawling landscape, and its glittering skyline.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, in the two lead roles, don’t just burst randomly into song. You very quickly get to sense that they sing when ordinary words just won’t do. They play Seb, a jazz pianist, and Mia, an aspiring actress, both a little down on their luck when the meet. The song and dance make up their courtship. The pair do not meet-cute; they meet-ugly several times until it takes: toes tap, together. New love is exhilarating. You feel as though you could sing your lover’s name from the rooftop, as if you could dance on air. It just so happens that in La La Land, they do these things literally. And it’s glorious. The fluid, ethereal dance steps will remind you of Fred and Ginger. Chazelle weaves magic, and a touch of fantasy, into their story, and even though you may never have waltzed among rs-248320-emma-stone-ryan-goseling-la-la-land-sing-dance-trailerthe stars in your sweetheart’s arms, you sort of know how it feels. But this great passion never lasts. It tapers off. Songs repeat. Sean felt himself longing for the exuberance of the beginning of the movie, and realized that was the point. Seb and Mia were missing it too.

If you’ve watched the gorgeous trailer, you’ll recognize the song that Ryan Gosling sings. The lyrics go: “City of stars, are you shining just for me?” But the movie reminds you that L.A. isn’t just a city of stars, it’s a city of dreams, and Seb and Mia are there to chase theirs. They haven’t come to Los Angeles to find love, but to find meaningful work. To become famous and\or successful. La La Land is about following your dreams, and it’s about the cost of following those dreams.

So Sean, whose movie reviews often consist of just three words (“It was good”) can’t shut up about this film. He’s fumbling to find the right words, but he knows he hasn’t just seen a good film, but experienced something unforgettable. I, on the other hand, have been oddly silent in the 24 hours since we saw it. Not for lack of trying, it’s  just that every time I open my face to speak, more tears fall out of it. And lest you start to worry that this is some tragedy wherein Ryan Gosling ends up shot, it’s not. These aren’t just tears of sorrow, but of joy and of wonder. This movie has made me feel. It has made me feel all the feels. I can’t even make it through this review with any dignity. La La Land is why I go to the movies. It’s unselfconscious and unabashed, a cake among pies, and as soon as I’ve finished weeping, I want another slice.

 

If you’re as desperate as I am to keep reading (and talking! and weeping!) about this wonderful movie, please visit our discussion section – SPOILERS – be warned.

 

93 thoughts on “TIFF: La La Land

  1. moviemavengal

    THIS is the film that I am most looking forward to for the entire year. I loved Whiplash, and ever since the trailer for La La Land came out, I have been waiting with baited breath. I cannot tell you how happy your review makes me. I love musicals, and because Hollywood doesn’t make them anymore, I’ve turned to Indian films to get my fix. I am SO glad to hear how great this film is. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Crazy Love was the best thing about that film, and I’ve just been crossing my fingers that Damien Chazelle would create magic with them again. Yay!!!!

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    1. Jay Post author

      I know, this was such a priority for me at TIFF this year, but now I somewhat regret it – it’s lonely having a great film you can’t wait to talk about, but no one to talk to about it because nobody else will see it until DECEMBER!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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  2. ruth

    I haven’t seen Whiplash yet and I’m not the biggest Gosling fan (read: not at all) but I’m curiously excited to see La La Land, mainly for Chazelle’s passion in bringing this to life years ago and faced so many rejection.

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  3. Tom

    Love the passion in this review! Damn, this sounds like something I have to see!!! I’ll bet I’ll come out the other side the same way, too. I’m not usually into musicals but Damien Chazelle knows what the f**k he’s doing. He’s great.

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  5. Liam

    Great review. I don’t usually really like musicals but I’m definitely going to watch La La Land, just because of Gosling and Stone. Massive fans of them both.

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    1. Jay Post author

      It might not work for everyone, but it’s not a traditional musical so I think it’s worth taking a chance on. Plus, if you’re a movie lover generally, this one is going to be among the year’s most talked about.

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  6. reocochran

    Jay, aww! I am not used to your showing us so openly such heart and enthusiasm, as well as stating Sean’s exctement for him.
    When the plot and idea of this movie being made was posted about 9 months ago, I told my youngest daughter we would have to go! We like the corny yet meaningful “The Notebook” due to the elderly versions of James Garner and Gena Rowlands (I think) the younger ones also do well like Ryan and Rachel.
    I like Emma Stone and will enjoy watching the glamour and love of musical art being played out on the Big Screen again. ❤

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  7. Birgit

    I’m loving your review and now I can’t wait to see this movie which I want to see in the theatre. Gosh you are lucky to see all these films and hope we get an overall review of your TIFF experience

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well, Les Miserables and Into the Woods are both recent, but they’re also just movie remakes of Broadway musicals.
      Does Pitch Perfect count?
      The John Carney ones: Once, Begin Again, Sing Street aren’t exactly song and dance numbers

      I sort of think La La Land is the only one of its kind for the past….60 years, maybe? A long time at any rate.

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  8. jwforeva

    The only one of its kind in 60 years?!! Holy hell I’m now on edge. I’ve been excited ever since I knew Chazelle was working on a musical after Whiplash. I’m hearing so many raving reviews but yours really shows how much depth there is to it. I can’t fathom how good a musical can be, but then again that’s what makes this that much more exciting. Nice review Jay 🙂

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    1. Jay Post author

      Thanks! I’ll be so excited to hear what you think about it. I’m desperate to talk to someone properly about it.
      Chazelle’s very first film (this is only his 3rd) is also a musical – have you seen it?

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    1. Jay Post author

      I remember when I saw Whiplash I was blown away – I’d heard it was good but wasn’t prepared for how good. I ran home and ordered Sean to watch it immediately, knowing he would love it too.
      This one is SO different. Whiplash was a perfect small film – this one is so much bigger in scale, and perfect in its own way.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Damien Riley

    Nice review. Unlie Sean, I gush about anything I see good or bad. The way you describe how he responded is the way I responded to “Sing Street.” Thanks again for the review, I’ll try and get Sarah (my version of Sean in female form) to go see this weekend.

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